When I heard the news, I think it was around 6:30 and 7:30 after magrib nimaz (evening prayers). I was sitting with my sister and brother-in-law. Suddenly I got a call that Burhan Wani was killed. My first reaction was that please take care, please tell CRPF people, tell others to exert maximum caution, try to impose curfew at sensitive places so that we are able to contain the situation and nobody gets hurt. This was my first reaction. I was also surprised in the sense because it was something I had not anticipated will happen, and it was happening. Burhan Wani was a person who was seen by many youngsters on social media. I knew that it would have repercussions in the sense that young boys may come out to go to his funeral etc. But it will go to such an extent, I had never thought about it. One, it was a surprise. Secondly, my concern was how to control the situation in a way that there is no casualty and nobody gets hurt. That was the only focus.
Recently, in a candid interview with the Indian Express, J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti revealed what and how the situation got out of control after Burhan’s death. Here’s what she said:
Q. When you heard that the police and CRPF killed around 30 people on the first day, what did you think?
MM: It is not that 30-40 people died on the first day. News of deaths started trickling in, and the numbers started adding up in the first three days because a number of people who were injured died subsequently. It was such a feeling that I can’t even express because I had never imagined that there is going to be a day when I am going to be at the helm of affairs and something like this can happen. It was a shock. I had never comprehended in my life that something like this is going to happen. I don’t have words. I was totally taken aback. At times your mind goes blank… You are doing everything, you are imposing curfew, you are seeing to it that people don’t come out. You are talking to security guys all the time, telling them please observe restraint. You are constantly telling them, please don’t do this, please don’t do that. And again something happens and people get injured and killed. It was helplessness at that point of time. I was also anguished because I thought I must have seen these boys so many times. I thought they must have clapped at my rallies — may be they were too young when I would go through those areas. Many a time, I would meet these boys on my way and at times they would have complaints against a police or Army camp. I used to see to it that I am able to help them. I have been to each and every place there (in south Kashmir). Those days I had only one PSO (personal security officer). Sometimes even the policeman wouldn’t dare to go to those places but I would go. These young kids would surround me and accompany me to those far-flung villages. It hurt me also because I thought these are the boys who must have been holding their mother’s hand or may be some of them were slightly older when I saw them. I must have seen them or they must have seen me. I tried my best along with my father. We tried to take fear out of their hearts because, if you recall, there was a time that when these young boys, men and women would pass a security forces camp, they were asked to run. They could not walk, they had to run, and they were scared. Many a time when a new camp came up, they would gather these young boys to build the camp. So I would go to the (security) camps and take these boys out. I felt sad because I was the one who tried to see to it that they got their confidence back. When Mufti sahib was CM or even earlier, I would visit the Army camps and talk to the concerned officer and ask him why have you brought this boy there, why are you calling him to the camp. Not only Army, I would plead on behalf of these kids before the Task Force (of J&K Police). So when I heard that these boys have come out on the roads and are going towards police stations and camps, trying to attack them and that they were getting hurt and killed, I thought, my God, this was not my purpose to get them out of that fear psychosis, which existed during those years. I wanted them to live a happy healthy life, play like any other kids. I think that the problem that we have in Kashmir is not child’s play. It is for the elders to work towards finding some solution. It is not fair to allow your kids to get involved in this problem and get consumed by it.
Q. Did you feel any remorse?
MM: I felt angry. I also felt very helpless, very sad. I mean there were so many emotions at the same time. I was angry. How could people allow their kids to go out in such a charged atmosphere, when there is a hartal call, there is a chalo (march) call, there is curfew, security forces are out to take control of the situation. How can you allow your kids to go out?
Q. Were you angry at the State machinery at any point?
MM: I was at times angry of course. At times, when I would feel they could have been more cautious. At times. But it is also easier said than done because when you are sitting at a place (away from the spot) and you feel why did they use this pellet gun or why did they use tear gas shell, you don’t know what is happening at that time there. While so many people were injured and killed, at the same time a good number of policemen also got injured. But then I would get upset and angry because I feel police and security forces are disciplined forces and they are elders (adults). Maybe, by being a little more cautious, we would have saved some lives.