A video message by Hizbul Mujahideen’s 21-year-old commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani, asking Kashmiri youth to join them, is being circulated through WhatsApp.
The video message also addresses “our own” policemen asking them to shun their fight against the militants.
“We want to send a message to the people of Kashmir, especially youth, that they should come and join us,” says Burhan in the video. Wearing grey trousers and a military fatigue, Burhan is sitting on the ground. A Kalashnikov, a pistol and a Quran is in front of him and he is flanked by two gunmen. “If they can’t join us, they should help us in whatever way they can”.
In a departure from the practice of sending statements to the media, this is the first time a militant commander in the Valley has addressed people directly through a video message.
Quoting Quran, Burhan explains why they have become militants. “We have left our families…our mothers and sisters…so that the chastity of your mothers and sisters is safeguarded. We are here so that Khilafah is established in Kashmir.
Referring to policemen as “our own”, the most wanted militant says: “Our police, despite being our own, have taken up the Indian gun against us…We appeal to them not to do this”.
Saying that policemen harass “our families”, Burhan says if militants wanted they too could make families of policemen “unsafe”. “Our religion doesn’t allow us… we regard their families as our own”.
He adds: “When there is an encounter, SPOs and constables get killed. They should understand that officers sacrifice them for their own promotions”.
Burhan says religious preachers should either “preach truth” or “remain silent”. “It is not sufficient to talk only about Haj, roza (fasting) and Zakat. Don’t they (preachers) see our prophet participated in 80 wars? Why are they hiding it?”
Referring to boys and girls, who work as police informers, he said: “We are warning them. They should desist from it. They should boycott India and should not support it on any front”.
Inspector General of Police , Kashmir, Javed Mujtaba Gilani said he has not seen the video and cannot comment on it.
From Class X student to Hizb leader, in five years
Burhan Muzaffar Wani (21) heads the new group of young militants that have taken the war to the virtual world. Counter-insurgency operations by police and Army in South Kashmir revolve around this militant.
The course of Burhan’s life changed on a summer evening in 2010 when he, his brother Khalid — who was shot dead by Army when he went to meet Burhan in a forest in April — and another friend, were on a bike when they were stopped by personnel of Special Operations Group of J-K Police.
“They asked us to fetch cigarettes, which Khalid did. As we were leaving, they started beating us,” said the friend who was with Burhan. “Khalid was knocked unconscious, while Burhan and I escaped. At a safe distance, Burhan shouted: ‘I will avenge this’”.
That winter, Burhan left home. Five years later, he is the commander of a new breed of Hizbul Mujahideen militants in south Kashmir and carries a bounty of Rs 10 lakh on his head.