12 May, 2021

Streetside Plebiscite

A young militant is killed. In death, he becomes an icon. And the streets speak freedom.

Lightning Rod
Protest slogans rend the air at Burhan’s funeral in Tral
Photograph by Getty Images
Streetside Plebiscite

Kashmir is back to its ominous normal. The Valley is on the boil after the killing of young and charismatic militant commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani by police on July 8. The spontaneous, leaderless outbursts of anger and grief have caught everyone by surprise and, not confined to Burhan’s native Tral town in the south, have spread far and wide across the Valley. It’s a dramatic replay of the 2008 and 2010 agitations: people defying curfew, braving bullets, taking to the streets in overwhelming numbers. Their demand: azadi, or freedom from India.

However, the protests are dissimilar from those of the rec­ent past­—more violent and angrier, they are reminiscent of the early 1990s. Symbols of ‘India’, for example, were largely spared in the earlier street ‘intifadas’; now, they are targeted with unparalleled ferocity. The epicentre of these protests is south Kashmir, bastion of chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP. Protesters have set ablaze two BJP offices, two dozen pol­ice camps, a PDP legislator’s house, CRPF...

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