On Friday, Hizbul commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with armed forces and the Kashmir Valley was plunged into chaos. Defying restrictions, thousands of people came out on streets across the Valley, mosques rang with pro-Burhan, pro-azadi slogans, and crowds pelted stones at security forces. As protests continued on Saturday, and vast numbers made their way to Tral for Wani’s funeral, security forces opened fire. At least 16 protesters have been killed so far.
Both the national and the local media agree that 21-year-old Wani was the poster boy of the new militancy in Kashmir. Going by reports in much of the national media, he was no different from a terrorist, a man wanted for plotting the death of Indian security personnel. But a number of Kashmiri papers reflected the dominant local sentiment, that he was a "hero" fighting state oppression.
One of the first articles published in Greater Kashmir after Wani was killed speaks of how he turned to militancy to avenge the beating doled out by security forces to his brother, Khalid. The article describes Wani as a “sharp”, “loving” boy born to an affluent Jama’at-e-Islami family. As the protests in the Valley gathered force, however, Kashmiri newspapers devoted their front pages to the outpouring of support witnessed in the Valley and the crackdown by security forces.Printed in red letters at the top of the Greater Kashmir’s Sunday front page was a single word: Burhaaaaaaan…
Rising Kashmir spoke of civilian deaths as “Kashmir bleeds and burns” and dwelt on the “unprecedented farewell” for Wani in Tral.
The Kashmir Monitor talked of the thousands who “bid adieu to ‘Commander Burhan’”:
The Jammu-based Kashmir Times struck a careful balance, noting how “normal life” was “paralysed” by curfews, prohibitory restrictions as well as strikes. It also mentioned 96 cops being injured along with 200 protesters:
Mirror of Kashmir mentioned “eight civilians killed” and “96 injured” in its headline. The story explains that it means 96 policemen were injured.
Meanwhile, Rising Kashmir carried an opinion piece by Ashok Bhan, saying the Kashmir issue needed “political attention” from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal of the Kashmir Times raised a vital point: “The question that begs an answer is not why the youth are protesting but why is that they have failed to find creative and peaceful mechanisms of agitating and resistance.”