Human Interest

Indian Kashmir imposes restrictions as top separatist leader Geelani dies

By Shah Abbas

Srinagar, India, Sep 02 (EFE).- The strongest separatist voice of India-administered Kashmir, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, died Wednesday night under house arrest in Srinagar, his family said. He was 92.

Born on Sep. 29, 1929 in north Kashmir, Geelani had suffered from ill health for some years.

Geelani’s son-in-law Zahoor Geelani confirmed the death of the veteran leader to EFE, adding “a huge number of government forces have surrounded Geelani’s residence in Hyderpora, Srinagar.

Geelani had been confined to his house since 2010 and only released for two months in 2014 before being detained again. Sources in his family said police would even escort Geelani during hospital medical checkups.

“He passed away at about 10 pm. Continuous detention had taken a toll on Geelani’s health,” Zahoor said.

Hours after Geelani’s death, authorities imposed a curfew and cut internet services across Kashmir Valley to prevent Geelani’s followers from reaching Srinagar to attend his funeral.

“Restrictions have been imposed and internet service has been cut to maintain peace,” a police official told EFE.

There were reports of government forces being deployed in large numbers in all 10 districts of Kashmir Valley.

Before resigning from the Hurriyat Conference last year and falling seriously ill, Geelani was the frontline separatist leader of the disputed region.

A staunch supporter of the right to self-determination, Geelani was a three-time lawmaker. He was elected for the local legislature in 1972, 1977 and 1987 under his parental socio-political organization Jamaat-e-Islami.

He resigned soon after an armed rebellion started in the region and dedicated himself to what he called the freedom struggle.

Geelani had supporters throughout the disputed Kashmir region, in Chenab and Pir-Panchal areas, who would take to the streets on the call of their leader.

A powerful speaker, Geelani authored more than two dozen books and booklets including his autobiography in Urdu “Wular Kinaray,” two jail dairies “Maqtal-Se-Wapsi” and “Rudad-e-Qafas,” and a well acknowledged Urdu commentary on philosopher Mohammad Iqbal’s Persian works. Geelani’s main written political works in Urdu also include “Bharat Ke Istemari Harbey,” “Nawa-e-Hurriyat,” “Sadai-e-Dard” and “Deed-o-Shaneed”.

According to Mohammad Afzal, a close follower of Geelani, the leader spent more than 15 years in different jails for his pro-freedom stance. His latest detention came after spearheading a powerful anti-India uprising, along with his close aide, Masarat Alam.

Geelani’s fame peaked in the early 2000s when he stood against then-Pakistani Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf after he advocated his “four point formula” about Kashmir. Geelani not only opposed Musharraf and his view, but successfully mobilized masses against it, even though all other pro-freedom leaders of the resistance supported the prime minister.

Known for his uncompromising attitude about his ideology, Geelani united with those who opposed his ideas later in life, compelling.

“Becoming part of the Hurriyat conference was one of the two blunders committed by Geelani,” His biographer Shafi Shariati wrote. Shariati currently faces life imprisonment for his separatist politics.

When Geelani became ill, Kashmir panicked. Media organizations and personalities in Srinagar, the main city of Indian Kashmir, would receive dozens of daily phone calls from across the region inquiring about the leader’s health.

Geelani’s health conditions had also been unnerving authorities, who anticipated a massive gathering at his funeral which could go out of control and turn into an anti-India demonstration.

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