Fri. Apr 19th, 2019

Kashmir: Significance of Nazir Wani’s Martyrdom

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind presents Ashoka Chakra to Lance Naik Nazir Ahmad Wani's wife Mahajabeen during the 70th Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi on January 26, 2019. Wani, a militant-turned-soldier, had laid down his life fighting a group of terrorists in Shopian, South Kashmir on November 2018. Ashoka Chakra is India's highest peacetime gallantry award. (Photo: PTI)

Nazir Wani was a former militant who first picked up the gun to fight for Kashmir’s freedom struggle. Soon, Wani realised that he had become a pawn in Pakistan Army’s proxy war. He quit militancy and joined the Indian Army to fight against his former comrades who had wreaked havoc in Kashmir Valley. Wani was part of operations that eliminated 30 terrorists. He was conferred Ashoka Chakra posthumously.

A lot has been written about the valour and devotion to duty displayed by late Lance Naik Nazir Ahmad Wani, who was posthumously conferred Ashoka Chakra and rightly so. India’s highest peacetime award doesn’t come easy, especially when valour and sacrifice have become the byword for our security forces who are courageously fighting a full blown proxy war sponsored by Pakistan in Jammu & Kashmir as well as left wing extremism in more than a 100 districts of nearly ten states. However, the case of Wani is more than just an act of exceptional gallantry — it tears apart the false story line being propagated by vested interests portraying Kashmiris as anti national Indians who want to become a part of Pakistan.

Wani’s first tryst with gun was in the nineties when he dropped out of school and like many others of his age, joined militancy. However, on realising that what was being flaunted as “freedom struggle” was in reality a proxy war being sponsored by the Pakistan Army, he got disillusioned and decided to quit after seeing how militants were silencing dissent by killing innocent Kashmiris. After his surrender, Wani had the option of returning to civil life but having witnessed militants terrorising locals, he decided to do his bit to stop this menace. So he joined Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen (IuM), a counter-insurgent outfit of Kashmiris that was assisting security forces in anti-militancy operations.

Though ‘Ikhwanis’ (as members of IuM were commonly referred to) came under much criticism for their high handedness, there were no allegations of any type of misconduct against Wani. On account of his exceptionally high level of motivation and excellent personal qualities, he was enrolled in 162 Infantry Battalion (Territorial Army) affiliated to the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry in 2004. Those who selected him still recall his extraordinary ‘josh’ (drive) that convinced them that even though he was a former militant, Wani would prove to be an asset- and their assessment was right. After donning the army uniform, Wani declared his personal war on militants since they were ruining so many lives in Kashmir and spurred by this mission he was an ever ready volunteer when it came to participation in anti-militant operations.

His professional skills and raw courage under fire during encounters with militants earned him a Sena Medal (Gallantry) in 2007, but this honour didn’t make him either conceited or complacent. He continued with the same zeal and participated in numerous operations that saw the elimination of more than 30 hard core terrorists. In 2018, Wani once again showed exceptional daring when he, unmindful of personal safety, gunned down a hard core terrorist in close combat. For this act of valour, Wani was awarded Sena Medal (Gallantry) for the second time (referred to as ‘Bar to Sena Medal’ in military parlance), which is quite a rare feat. Even after this singular achievement he continued to participate in anti-militancy operations with full vigour and the daring act in which he gave the supreme sacrifice bears testimony to Wani’s dedication and his resolute conviction that militants were a scourge that had to be eradicated at all costs.

Despite being aware of the grave dangers that lay ahead, Wani still chose to live life on the edge and died a heroic death. Wani isn’t the only Kashmiri who abhorred militants, this sentiment is nevertheless widespread in the Valley and it is the fear of reprisal from militants that prevents its public expression. The very fact that JK Police and Special Operations Group remain at the forefront of anti-militancy operations in Kashmir is a reality that the pro-Pakistan lobby cannot digest since it exposes their false claim of Kashmiris wanting to break free from India, which Pakistan and its proxies in Kashmir are desperately trying to sell to the world.

Indian soldiers salute the brave heart Lance Naik Nazir Ahmad Wani

This is why militants are being ordered by their handlers from across the border to strike terror into the hearts of people who are voluntarily cooperating with the establishment and security forces. The result is that today Kashmiri militants are shamelessly killing their own unarmed brothers to dissuade others from being nationalists. But despite these cold blooded murders (some of which have also been posted on social media for greater public impact), the militants’ strong arm tactics hasn’t worked. Despite ordering policemen to quit their jobs and killing many of them, the militants’ diktat hasn’t achieved anything substantial. Similarly, despite killing scores of civilians after branding them as informers, locals are still tipping off security forces regarding the whereabouts of militants.

Wani’s martyrdom brings to fore the indomitable Kashmiri spirit that will never succumb to subjugation by Islamabad through militants in the garb of “freedom struggle”. Though there was no public expression of grief on Wani’s demise but then this was more because of fear of militants and not due to indifference. Another plus point of Wani’s sacrifice is that it has dispelled the wrong impression in the minds of many that the security forces are fighting against the collective will of Kashmiris or that Kashmir has gone out of India’s control. Wani’s martyrdom has convincingly proved that the negative image of Kashmiris being projected is untrue and this malicious fabrication is the work of groups with vested interests who want to create a chasm between the people of Kashmir and those from other parts of the country.

Tailpiece:   

After learning about Lance Naik Nazir Wani, an acquaintance with extremely biased views about Kashmiris surprised me by saying, “Tell them (pro-Pakistan lobby) that if they have Burhan Wanis, then we too have our Nazir Wanis!” Though this may sound melodramatic but what he has said is absolutely right because as long as we have the likes of Lnk Nazir Ahmad Wani on our side, we have just nothing to worry about as far as Kashmir is concerned.

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