The Unbroken Chain of Kashmir’s Freedom Struggle: From Abdul Qadeer to Burhan Wani

The Unbroken Chain of Kashmir’s Freedom Struggle: From Abdul Qadeer to Burhan Wani

by Saba Ghulam Nabi

The Kashmir freedom struggle has been a long and painful journey spanning over eight decades. Since its inception in 1931, initiated by Abdul Qadeer, to Mannan Wani, there is an unending list of martyrsstands inspiring for the generations to come. These martyrs have set different trends, standing out for their bravery. Influenced by the religion of Islam and driven by India’s oppressive rule, they adopted paths that led to martyrdom, hoping their generations would see the dawn of Azadi.

The struggle has taken various forms, from peaceful non-violent protests to armed resistance, and in every phase, Kashmiris have faced unimaginable hardships and atrocities at the hands of Indian forces. The people of Kashmir have made countless sacrifices, as evident by their history. Kashmiris have continuously shown their unwavering dedication to their rights and dignity, even when it means willingly sacrificing their own and their loved ones’ lives. The freedom struggle of Kashmir has seen multiple intifadas (uprisings). The armed resistance that began in 1989, is one of the most remarkable freedom movements globally. The armed resistance led by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), soon gained momentum, with over two dozen organizations joining the fight for liberation.There are many martyrs on this list, and their names are all carved in the books of Kashmir history.

The Indian government responded with brute force, unleashing a reign of terror on the civilian population. Kashmiris were subjected to massacres, crackdowns, torture, detention, and every other heinous crime imaginable. Despite the odds, the freedom fighters persisted, driven by the desire for a dignified life, free from Indian occupation. The statistics are staggering. Since the 1989 uprising, over 100,000 lives have been lost, and more than 10,000 people have disappeared in Kashmir 22,968 women widowed, 11,259 raped or molested, and 2,500 women left in limbo, not knowing if their missing husbands are dead or alive.Over 7,322 children have been killed in fake encounters or custody, and 107,941 have been orphaned. Among these various martyrs who laid their lives for the emancipation of Kashmir, there is one name Burhan Wani, in particular, who became a symbol of resistance, inspiring a generation of young Kashmiris to take up the fight.

His social media presence and charisma earned him the title of “poster boy of new-age resistance”. Wani joined the freedom struggle after repeated experiences of humiliation by Indian security forces at checkpoints while traveling around the cities of IIOJK. After joining HizbulMujahideen, he became a social media sensation when he posted videos of himself in uniform. He bravely fought multiple battles that shook the foundations of power in Delhi.

Unfortunately, as a fighter, he survived for only five years before being killed in an encounter in 2016 at the age of 22. His martyrdom filled the public with anger, and a huge number of protesters took to the streets across the Kashmir Valley in IIOJK. This was one of the rare times in the history of the Kashmiri struggle when the entire region was united in protest without any call from any leader. The news of these remarkable protests made headlines in international media, successfully gaining the attention of global powers despite India’s attempts to suppress the protests. India used every means to quell the movement, including pellet guns, which left over 1,000 Kashmiris, including children, blind or with severe eye injuries. The imposition of lockdowns and internet shutdowns only strengthened the resolve of the Kashmiri people.

The martyrdom of the Kashmiri hero inspired educated youth, and soon the media was abuzz with news of a new batch of young people joining the freedom movement. The struggle, which had halted in 2003, gained momentum once again, raising hopes of freedom among the people, particularly the youth. The consequences of his passing continued in shaping the continuous fight in IIOJK for the right to self-determination. Since 1931, the Kashmiri people have witnessed countless acts of brutality and devastation, yet their determination and spirit have never faded. Every sad incident has strengthened their drive to pursue justice, freedom, and self-determination. The unwavering spirit of the Kashmiris continues to be a source of inspiration and a testament to their unwavering commitment to securing a better future for themselves and their land. Pakistan launched an aggressive diplomatic campaign to highlight Indian atrocities in IIOJK, forming a 22-member delegation to visit countries including Russia, the USA, France, Saudi Arabia, and Turkiye. While Pakistan fulfilled its promised duty of diplomatic support, the role of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) remained largely passive due to its limited constitutional mandate, election hustles, and other reasons, with only a few protests held. Now, the freedom movement, whose epicenter is IIOJK, has been halted again due to India’s attempt to merge the state in 2019. After the illegal merger of the IIOJK, India has successfully silenced any dissenting voices from IIOJK.

A long lockdown and frequent internet shutdowns do not allow people to have contact with the outer world. Above all that, communication surveillance has put pressure on the people of Jammu and Kashmir to speak their hearts out. IIOJK has turned into a big jail, where no one is allowed to live according to one’s own choice let alone the freedom of expression. The United Nations has failed to effectively intervene to prevent the loss of innocent lives in Kashmir or to put its resolutions into action. Unfortunately, nothing has changed about the fate of Kashmiris. Now the responsibility lies with the government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) to honor the sacrifices of Kashmiris and advocate for their cause on every possible platform. The struggle must persist, for the future is uncertain, and the fate of Kashmir hangs in the balance.

The world must acknowledge the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiri people and pressurize India to grant them their basic human right – the right to self-determination.

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Center for International Strategic Studies AJK, King Abdullah Campus Chatter kalas Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir