Commentary

‘We too have a Burhan Wani in our village. He is our friend’

It happened just a couple of days after Burhan Wani was killed along with his associates in the southern part of Kashmir on July 8, 2016.

I saw some kids of my village playing around the passenger waiting shed. Since vehicular movement had almost stopped for a while, they would play on a deserted stretch of blacktop. Cops and soldiers were deployed in almost every nook and corner. While these kids were playing cricket, they came up with a trick to irritate the soldiers.

They walked toward them, passed a smile and said something very shocking to them. “We too have a Burhan Wani in our Village,” one of the kids spoke. “He is our friend.” The other kids nodded.

It made those weary soldiers curious. So they asked these kids, if they could get him here. They immediately agreed. After a few minutes, Burhan Wani came, quite confidently. He was shielded by his friends—like vigilant lieutenants would guard their prized commander.

The army scanned him from head to toe, looked carefully into his eyes and within no time, burst into a wild laughter.

“Do you think this kiddo can be Burhan Wani? He just cannot be. No way. He is too innocent to be that guy. It takes a lot of courage to be Burhan Wani,” one of the soldiers said.

The Bard of Avon writes in his celebrated play, Romeo and Juliet, What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet.

But when the name of Burhan Wani made it to hennaed hands of Kashmir’s women last summer, besides residential colonies, graffiti, slogans and taranas (“Sou ous Shahsawar, Burhan humara Zinda hai”), even Shakespeare appears disbelieving.

Something is indeed in the name of Burhan Wani.

Perhaps that’s why the soldiers in my village were looking for him in a 9-year-old boy. Even being spineless has its own advantages. And one could only imagine how the soldiers would have behaved had that amorous youth who challenged Delhi’s might in Kashmir still been alive.

The thing is, a name has an impact. A huge one. And when it comes to Kashmir, your name decides your fate at times. If you don’t believe that, then do yourself a favour. Change your name for a while.

How about being Burhan Wani for a day?

It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out how one would be stereotyped in Burhan Wani’s skin and shoes.

When deaths, mourning, dissent weddings trailed his passage last summer, entire Kashmir changed.

In his early twenties, he had rattled the apparatus. Being a one man army against the rivals in lakhs needs some special spine. He had it, thus had a sway.

Mindful of it, Delhi is now snubbing his mention from its official communiqué. “Why is it that his name scares them so much?” I wondered when that overzealous retired major lost it over his mention inside a TV studio. But then, I quickly realized how the beloved guerrilla had left his footprints everywhere.

Already a global rebel figure, he is seen more as a “revolutionary” than an insurgent who challenged the “military occupation” and gave a different direction to the K-struggle.

Lately, I bumped into those kids in my village again at our passenger waiting shed. Barely a week before Burhan Wani’s first deat anniversary, they were busy in their usual fun and frolic—until one of them saw an army patrol passing through the village.

They exchanged a mischievous grin. And I instantly realized that the kiddos are at it, again.

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