ON 8 JULY, INDIAN SECURITY FORCES killed the 21-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani in Kashmir’s Anantnag district. Anger immediately erupted in the valley, and protestors took to the streets in their thousands, even in towns and villages that were usually unaffected by past agitations. Protestors blocked roads, imposed shutdowns, shouted anti-India slogans and pelted stones at security personnel who tried to restrain them.
When I travelled through Kashmir in July, most people I spoke to felt that Burhan’s killing was followed by a dramatic upsurge in the Kashmiri resistance movement. “He openly challenged the mighty Indian state,” a Kashmiri journalist told me. “No more hiding guns under the pheran. No more using pseudonyms. No more hiding behind a mask. That appealed to the people who have been suppressed under the fear of large-scale military presence.” Burhan, he added, “brought the discussion back to the dinner table.”
As in 2010, when the valley last witnessed protests of this scale, the Indian government responded with crushing force, deploying army and paramilitary personnel, who fired at protesters in several places across Kashmir. At the time this story went to press, 89 civilians had been killed, and more than 13,000 injured.