On 9 July 2016, at 3 pm, a throng of men—young and old—stood around a freshly dug grave at a cemetery earmarked for martyrs in Tral, located in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district. They stood there, calmly praying for Burhan Wani, the divisional commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen. On 8 July, Burhan was killed after a brief gun-battle with Indian security forces in South Kashmir’s Kokernag.
A man in his mid-fifties recited the prayers loudly, to which the rest of the gathering responded with “Ameen” (may it be accepted) at brief intervals. During the proceedings, a boy, dressed in a pair of jeans and a gray T-shirt, broke down as he said “Ameen” when the older man prayed, “May Burhan’s martyrdom be accepted.”
Burhan Wani, a 22-year-old man from Tral, joined the militant movement in Kashmir when he was 15 years old. He is perceived to be the face of new-age militancy in the region, and his emergence coincided with a fresh phase of insurgency in Kashmir.
Early in the morning, on 9 July, Burhan’s body was handed over to his family. People, numbering in tens of thousands, were waiting to catch a final glimpse of the man. The first funeral was held at around nine in the morning. As visitors from different parts of south Kashmir continued to visit Tral throughout the day, Burhan’s burial was delayed until afternoon.
By the time Burhan was buried, next to his brother Khalid Muzaffar Wani, at around 2 pm, nearly 22 prayers had been held for him—a first, in the history of any such funeral.