Burhan Muzaffar Wani’s father was waiting for his son’s death for many years. It seemed inevitable to him, and he did not seem saddened by the thought.
“I am waiting for the body of Burhan. A militant does not live more than seven years. Burhan has already lived six of those. So I know his time will come,” Muzaffar Wani had told The Indian Express just three months ago, in mid-April.
Burhan’s killing on Friday has ended Wani’s wait, in exactly the way he foresaw, his personal loss compensated by the “martyrdom” that his son has gained in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of young Kashmiris.
“The boys who die in the struggle against those who oppress us, our God tells us they are not dead. That is why we call them shaheed,” he said. Parents were already naming their babies Burhan, Wani had said with pride.
It was about 8 pm, not the ideal time, the guide had said, to visit a militant’s home, as the house was under constant surveillance. On the otherwise deserted road, two youths sat on a wall and watched the night visitors to the Wani home drive past.
Wani recalled how one night, after Burhan went off to become a militant in 2010, he had stepped out of his house to check around the compound before locking up. He was surprised to see many policemen flattening the tall grass behind the house.
“They had got information that I had bought some kebabs that evening, and concluded that I had got them for my son. They were lying in wait for him,” he said, claiming with a laugh that his son had not come home since he left in October 2010.
The headmaster of a higher secondary school at Lurgam, 5 km from Tral, Wani said he had never worried for his son, although security forces were hot on Burhan’s heels and by April, had eliminated many of his comrades-in-arms.
“Let’s see,” he said, calculating aloud, “he has been gone 2,190 days. That makes it about 5,000 meals. Where did he eat these two meals a day? If he fell ill, who looked after him? Somebody is looking after him, that means there are enough people on his side.”
Fifty thousand mourners had attended the funeral of his other son Khalid, who was shot dead by security forces. He was not a militant, Wani explained — the Economics post-graduate had left home saying he was going for a picnic with friends. “He went to the forests in the hills; perhaps he was trying to meet his brother,” Wani said.
Another massive funeral had been held for a militant in Karimabad just a few days earlier. As he spoke about these mass outpourings of anger and mourning, Wani could have been describing Burhan’s funeral in Tral on Saturday, except that it was far bigger than even he might have imagined.
“When a militant dies, thousands of mourners come. They come from even as far away as 50 km away. Why? Because people believe he was on the right path. That he was fighting the oppression. Try collecting four people for the funeral of a drunk or a thug,” he said.