Burhan Wani's death and a year of living dangerously

The rise of Kashmir’s rock star ultras

Boys walk in front of closed shops during a curfew in Srinagar on Monday. —Photo: Nissar Ahmad  

By most dependable accounts, there is no credible evidence to show that slain militant Burhan Wani had carried out a single operation until his death last Friday in Kokernag.

However, he played a crucial role in convincing dozens of Kashmiri youth to take up arms, reversing the steady drop in violence over some years now.

According to sources, Wani’s career mirrors those of some other key militants whom security forces have neutralised in recent years. One officer said there have been at least two other such high-profile, flamboyant, and young militant commanders who have inspired several youth to take to militancy.


Many in the security establishment say the first of these flamboyant young militants was Abdullah Uni, a key Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist from Pakistan, who was known for riding around the town on motorbikes. He was reportedly the mastermind behind many major attacks, but more importantly, he had an uncanny ability to escape from encounter sites.

Official estimates show that he escaped unhurt from at least a dozen encounters. Uni was finally killed in Sopore in September 13, 2011. His successor Abu Qasim couldn’t match up to his flamboyance .

Another young militant, Sahadullah, had a similar profile among the local people, escaping cordons and encounter sites with unusual frequency.

During this period, several poorly trained local youngsters, who had taken to militancy inspired by these flamboyant militant leaders, have been killed in encounters, officials said.

The rise of this new generation of militants, who do not mind posing for cameras and exploit social media, has strangely coincided with the growing fog of war in the Kashmir Valley. The interlinking of the new-generation, high-profile militants, informers who could be playing both sides, and the loss of senior security officers are all part of a narrative that has thickened in the Valley in recent years. For example, in many of the high-profile attacks on security forces there has been specific intelligence that had enticed the troops to rush to a spot. This pattern is suspected in the killing of Col M.N. Rai, the commanding officer of a counter-insurgency unit, and Sub-Inspector Altaf Ahmad, an acclaimed Jammu and Kashmir counter-terrorism police officer, in 2015.

In both the killings, the tip-offs may have been deliberate traps, some officers suspect.

The rise of these young militants and their local cadres has helped in fuelling local support for militancy, say officers. In recent months, growing crowds have been turning up at the funerals of local militants. Burhan Wani’s funeral is but the biggest and deadliest of them all.

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 8:45:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/The-rise-of-Kashmir%E2%80%99s-rock-star-ultras/article14483471.ece

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