Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani dead at 91
- Syed Ali Shah Geelani left behind his wife and six children and a separatist organisation which had become largely mute after the abrogation of J&K special status on August 5.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, an avowedly pro-Pakistan Kashmiri secessionist leader, who passed away at his Hyderpora residence in Srinagar on Wednesday night, was the undisputed leader of separatism in Kashmir and the only one who would publicly raise the cry of Azadi-barai-Islam (Freedom for the sake of Islam).
The senior-most separatist leaders held a huge sway over a large number of Valley youth.
He left behind his wife and six children and a separatist organisation which had become largely mute after the abrogation of J&K special status on August 5.
Watch: Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani dies, PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti sends condolences
Known for his pro-Pakistan stance, Geelani, wanted the merger of Kashmir with Pakistan and has been seen as the strong voice of Pakistan in the Valley.
Among the youth with separatist ideology, he was fondly called “Babb” (grandfather) for his unwavering stand demanding freedom from India.
His opponents would call him a hawk and stubborn who was not pragmatic enough to change with the changing situations, even most of the mainstream leaders who are currently in jail blamed him for trouble in Kashmir.
During his lifetime, he was a staunch Islamist and for many years, he was seen as the face of Jamaat-e-Islami, a politico-religious organisation now banned by the government in Kashmir and remained as chairman All Party Hurriyat Conference in late 90s. His disliking for some of the politicians saw him forming another faction of the Hurriyat Conference in 2003, which was known as Hurriyat Conference (Geelani), the other faction was seen as a moderate faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
He spent around two decades in jails from time to time. From past around 10 years, he wasn’t keeping well and since 2010, the government used to mostly place him under house arrest at his Rawalpora residence, which also houses the office of his faction of Hurriyat Conference. Since August 5, 2019, Geelani was under house arrest and doctors under police protection used to visit him there though he was occasionally shifted to hospital whenever his condition deteriorated.
Before his death, the government had already formulated a foolproof security plan and they feared that his death could trigger series of protests in Kashmir, the protests which erupted after the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani in 2016. The government was also apprehensive of violence after Hurriyat Conference (G) faction issued a statement from Muzaffarabad asking people to converge at Eidgah martyrs cemetery soon after the death of the leader and funeral should be held on next day.
During his lifetime, Geelani openly advocated that the party Jamaat-e-Islami should support militants fighting for Kashmir and treat foreign militants as ‘guest militants’. For the youth who took to gun, Geelani was one of the few leaders whom they see as their inspiration and many local militants once trapped in encounters sensing their death used to sent messages to their families that their last funeral should be led none other than him.
Geelani has been author of a number of books and booklets including his three-volume autobiography ‘Wular Kinaray’ that revolved around his personal and political journey.
He twice contested elections from Baramulla Lok Sabha seat, but remained unsuccessful as NC candidates always defeated him. After the beginning of militancy in late 80s, he always opposed polls and was the first to announce the boycott calls whenever government used to announce the elections in Kashmir. He even expressed regrets at times when people voted in 2002 and 2008 polls and panchayat elections held in early 2000. Many considered him inflexible who wanted talks with India only, if government of India accepts Kashmir is an international dispute.
Geelani had represented Sopore in J&K assembly thrice, last time in 1987 when he was the candidate of Muslim United Front (MUF) and was one of the four candidates who managed to win their seats despite allegation of large scale poll riggings which led the start of militancy in Kashmir two years later. . He twice contested elections from Baramulla Lok Sabha seat, however, remained unsuccessful as NC candidates always defeated him.
After the start of militancy in late 80’s, he always opposed polls and was first to announce the boycott calls whenever government used to announce the elections in Kashmir. He even expressed regrets at times when people voted in 2002 and 2008 polls and panchayat elections held in early 2000.
However, his critics blamed him for promoting stone pelting and militancy while his relatives joined government ranks as the officers.
Though being a staunch Pakistani supporter, but at times he issued statements against Pakistan government; his closeness with the Pakistan earned him a sobriquet “as green lion”. He even asked people to hold funeral prayers for Osama bin Laden.
Many people in Kashmir believe that being a veteran politician and tallest separatist leader; he shouldn’t have closed his doors to the delegation of Indian Parliament members who had come to meet him after the killing of Hizb militant Burhan Wani evoked a protest which saw violence and unrest for six months.
Infact many saw him as one of the few persons in the J&K leaders who always said no to New Delhi and became biggest hurdle for New Delhi in Kashmir. With Geelani gone, now it remain to be seen who will replace him as there is not a single person in the separatist camp who holds sway on people like Geelani did.