Burhan Effect

  • Ajaz Rasool
  • Publish Date: Jul 12 2017 8:36PM
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  • Updated Date: Jul 12 2017 8:36PM
Burhan Effect

                                                      File Photo: Mir Wasim/ KI


What he attempted to do in his life he accomplished manyfold in his death



“It is important to emphasize that guerrilla warfare is a war of the masses, a war of the people. The guerrilla band is an armed nucleus, the fighting vanguard of the people. It draws its great force from the mass of the people themselves.” - Che Guevara


“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." - John F. Kennedy


The year of 1947 was a turning point in the history of the Indian subcontinent. With the exit of the British imperialists in August 1947 India’s struggle for independence came to fruition, and Pakistan too achieved its objective of independent statehood. The conglomeration of disparate dominions and kingdoms that was the Indian sub-continent had solidified into a single entity of British India ruled by Great Britain. 1947 witnessed the cleaving of this unified British India resulting in the birth of the twin countries of India and Pakistan and a tragedy called Kashmir.

The paradox vis a vis Kashmir that resulted consequent upon the events of 1947 has been largely ignored, swallowed as it has been by the bigger narrative of Indian history. The shifting sands of time have not only obscured the history of Kashmir but also continue to give rise to new distortions. It is a historical fact that at the time when India was under the yoke of the British imperialists Kashmir was an independent and sovereign nation state albeit under the tyranny of a monarchy. If 1947 spelled independence for India, for Kashmir it pronounced a deliverance from a tyrannical set-up but it was a delivery that went horribly wrong. The struggles of both India and the newly created Pakistan were over but for Kashmir they had just begun. It has been seven decades now and the struggle is far from over.

This struggle of the Kashmiri people for their political aspirations has seen so many twists and turns that at times it is difficult to identify a coherent pattern and that’s what has probably led to the misrepresentation of the Kashmiri people as an inconsistent lot. Pre-1947 while India was clamouring for independence from the British, Kashmir started its struggle against the tyrannical rule of the Dogra dynasty. The Maharajah, aware of his precarious standing amongst his Kashmiri subjects, decamped ignominiously when raiders from the newly created Pakistan entered his dominions. This could have be a cause for celebration for the Kashmiri people for whom it meant a release from the clutches of a monarchical set-up but the celebrations if any must have been short-lived because the Kashmiris were soon to discover that their struggles were far from over. For some years the people of this land were lulled into believing that the alliance with a friendly and benevolent India was just a transit period and people would soon be exercising their right for self-determination. Pretty soon it became evident that neither Nehru nor the country he headed had any intention of allowing this to happen. Conspiracies and coups followed and people were pulled into a vortex where most of the time they did not even know what they were agitating for but the agitations continued, sometimes in the name of autonomy, sometimes for the right of self-determination and sometimes in support of the same local leaders and parties which were collaborators of the Indian set-up but happened to be out of favour at that particular instant.

While the sentiment is indigenous the continued struggle of the Kashmiri people always followed a script that was written by others.  However, a common thread ran through all these agitations, for whatever be the immediate nature of the struggle it was always directed against India in its role as a perceived usurper. Repeatedly betrayed by their leaders, the Kashmiri people yet remained stuck with them because of lack of alternatives as well as a perception that the local leaders even if they had betrayed the peoples’ trust were still a bulwark against being totally overwhelmed by India.   Of course this perception was deliberately fostered by these parties who either acted as victims or actually turned into victims, which was not infrequent because New Delhi always kept these leaders on a tight leash and would bring them to heel at the slightest demonstration of obduracy. Thus the sentiment in Kashmir never actually got around to being a movement because it was more in the nature of dissipation rather than a focussed struggle. That is till the fag end of the ninth decade of the last century.

The late eighties were times of a global flux. Boundaries and borders thought to be absolute dissolved into irrelevance as masses took to streets and countries including the mighty USSR fragmented and independent territories and new countries came into existence. Revolution and change was in the air and Kashmir too was infected with this new found fervour for independence. The fact that this coincided with the beginnings of an armed struggle in Kashmir added more zest to it. The roads of Kashmir overflowed with people demanding independence from India and actually believing that they would get it. People from different walks of life took out mammoth processions and the UN observer group stationed in Kashmir which had become an atavistic relic over the decades suddenly became relevant once more as a focal point for these rallies and a recipient of countless memoranda.  This phase did not last long as New Delhi ruthlessly crushed the mass movement and forced it into oblivion.

Now another phase of struggle started in Kashmir, that of armed insurgency. For a brief period the militant groups held complete sway over the situation and New Delhi seemed to be at a loss as to how to deal with it.This phase though not uniform did persist for some time but before long the tide turned and the forces managed to overwhelm the armed movement and reduce it to redundancy. The local militant almost ceased to exist and even though militancy never got completely obliterated it came to be identified as more of a foreign phenomenon with ‘foreign’ militants grossly outnumbering the locals. In fact at one point of time it seemed that the struggle against Indian rule in Kashmir had been completely outsourced and the Kashmiris reduced to apathetic observers in a battle between security forces and ‘guest’ militants.

Then 2008 started an entirely different trend. Unarmed protesters largely comprising of the youth defied security forces and a seemingly unstoppable mass movement again hit the streets. Even bullets seemed unable to stop these unarmed angry masses and as the number of the dead increased so did the anger against India. This anger and the mass movement as well were more of an outpouring of rage rather than any planned strategy and so it could not sustain for long. In fact it was followed by an unprecedented participation of the people in elections which suggested that the people of Kashmir and their struggle too had finally succumbed to exhaustion.

Then along came Burhan and his facebook posts which changed the face of Kashmir’s  movement against Indian rule for ever. The sentiment which has always lurked beneath the surface responded to a new script which seemed to be an indigenous one at last. Here was a smart educated young man from an educated and affluent background who blew the theory of militancy being a ‘class war’ to smithereens. The facebook warrior fired the imagination of youth thereby infusing fresh blood into a moribund movement. If the Kashmiri masses were brimming with frustration because of a life of indignity that had been forced upon them by the state they had also grown wary of the ‘sympathetic neighbour’ and a nagging suspicion that they were being used had gradually taken root in the hearts of the local population. Burhan changed all that. He gave the people a hero they could identify with. He was the boy-next-door who took up the gun against what was largely perceived as an oppressive set-up.

A year after Burhan fell to the bullets of the security forces Kashmir is an entirely changed place. Recent elections proved that the slogans of ‘bijli, pani and sadak’ no longer beguile the masses. Nor do considerations of economy, as used to happen in the past, when even ‘leaders’ of the ‘movement’ would call for suspension of hostilities in deference to the much vaunted ‘tourist season’. There has also been a paradigm shift so far as role models for the Kashmiris especially the Kashmiri youth are concerned. Icons propped up as role models by the state have become objects of derision or, in the very least, indifference rather than admiration. The youth who are the lifeblood of any society have wrested the movement out of the hands of battle-weary veterans turning them into mere accessories. Whatever gains the mainstream had made over the past decades have been completely ditched. Of course the belligerent stance of the ruling dispensation in New Delhi which happens to be holding the reins of power in the state as well has further fuelled this alienation. The support for the militants is no longer a covert thing like in the past. Rather than cowering in their homes while the militants battle it out with the forces people come out in active support of the besieged militants and there is this increasing phenomenon of ‘civilian’ fidayeen who are willing to battle bullets and lay down their lives as they rally to the support of the militants involved in active combat.

The mass movement of the late eighties was a copy-paste phenomenon and the militancy that followed was a blind sequence scripted elsewhere but what is happening in Kashmir right now is altogether different. Of course it will be farfetched to say that the movement has come of age finally. Rather it would perhaps be more appropriate to say that the movement is actually going through a rebirth and emerging as an indigenous struggle at last. What Burhan attempted to do in his life he accomplished manyfold in his death. The Burhan effect shows no signs of abating as of now and regardless of what it may lead to ultimately it definitely marks a new epoch in the history of Kashmir.