Kashmir locked down as Syed Ali Shah Geelani gets quiet burial

Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s son, Nayeem, said police officers approached them and told them they will have to carry out the burial at the local graveyard before dawn
A soldier stands guard in Srinagar on Thursday. (Photo By Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times)
A soldier stands guard in Srinagar on Thursday. (Photo By Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times)
Updated on Sep 03, 2021 12:36 AM IST
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By Mir Ehsan, Srinagar

Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani was on Thursday buried in a quiet funeral at a graveyard near his residence in Srinagar’s Hyderpora amid a clampdown on movement and communications in Kashmir. The burial took place around 4.30am with Geelani’s family alleging that the police forcibly took away his body.

Geelani’s son, Nayeem, said police officers told the family the burial would have to happen at the local graveyard before dawn. “We told the police that he desired to be buried at Eidgah (in old Srinagar), and that we wanted to bury him there in the morning... The officer in charge... told us that there is pressure from higher officials to bury him at night,” he said.

He added that the police forcibly took away the body at 3am. “The body was taken to a local mosque and later buried after religious formalities. They asked us to attend the funeral, which we refused.” He also claimed the family requested the police to wait till the morning so that other relatives could gather but that this request wasn’t accepted. Nayeem said the family visited the grave in the morning.

The police action was likely prompted by a desire to avoid a mass gathering, which may have turned restive or violent. Inspector general of police (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar refused to comment on Nayeem’s allegations.

Nayeem said even after his death, authorities were fearful of his father. “They (government) thought that this death could trigger an upheaval.” Nayeem said his father developed a breathing problem at 9:30pm on Wednesday. “We put him on the oxygen support, but he passed away around 10pm.”

Geelani, the face of separatism in Kashmir for over three decades, died after a prolonged illness at 91. The separatist leader, who spent around two decades in jail, was largely confined to his residence because of ill-health since 2010.

As soon as the news of Geelani’s death broke, authorities enhanced security across the Valley. Hundreds of security personnel patrolled streets, put up barricades, and sealed key roads to restrict the movement of people in a clampdown similar to the one imposed after the nullification of the region’s semi-autonomous status in 2019. Shops and businesses were shuttered while the movement of vehicles was restricted. Internet connections and mobile networks were snapped and even journalists were prevented from covering the funeral. Only the post-paid mobiles of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited were working in Kashmir.

Forces were deployed across Kashmir and all the roads leading to Hyderpora were sealed. Officials said additional troops were deployed, especially in Srinagar’s old city and north Kashmir including Geelani’s hometown Sopore.

News agency Press Trust of India reported that Geelani’s family was asked to carry out the burial at night as a precautionary measure because of intelligence reports that suggested some “anti-national elements” could use the opportunity to create a law-and-order situation.

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Thursday, October 28, 2021