Will events following Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s death impact Kashmir politics?

Security arrangements, and restriction on the movement of people continued on September 3, Geelani was buried before dawn on Sept 2

J&KImage Courtesy:finance.yahoo.com/

On Thursday September 2, the Jammu and Kashmir Police had told mediapersons that the “restriction on the movement of people and Internet blockade” that was imposed that day will continue on Friday, September 3. These restrictions, which are nothing new to the locals, had been put in place this time after the death of senior Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The 92-year-old passed away on Wednesday, September 1, late at night at his residence after a prolonged illness.

A police spokesman said, “The situation across the valley remained peaceful and no untoward incident was reported,” adding that “vested interests” had fuelled “rumours” about forcible burial of Syed Ali Shah Geelani by Police. The spokesperson was quoted by Greater Kashmir and other local media as saying, “Such baseless reports which are a part of false propaganda to incite violence are totally refuted by the police. As a matter of fact, Police instead facilitated in bringing the dead-body from house to graveyard as there were apprehensions of miscreants taking undue advantage of the situation. The relatives of the deceased participated in the burial.” 

However, according to messages being shared purportedly by members of the extended Geelani family, their grief is fuelled by the way they allege the authorities behaved after the family’s patriarch passed away. He was 92 and ailing, and while many in the family may have been mentally prepared for his passing some day, what they say happened after that was something that was a shock.

“Not so sad at demise of Geelani sb, but more saddened by what the police did. They raided the residence, trampled everything, thrashed family members and took away the dead body..Even there was no stretcher..Dragged his remains.. Didn’t allow family members to perform last rites or attend funerals..It is a big lie that any close family members were there. His wife kicked n she was bleeding. His son thrashed… They could have handled it in a better way to allow last journey while observing security protocols,” alleged an anonymous mourner purportedly over a whatsapp message.

Geelani’s son, Naseem Geelani, told The Associated Press that while the family had planned to bury him at the main martyrs’ graveyard in Srinagar, as specified in his will, they  were not allowed to do so by police. “They snatched his body and forcibly buried him. Nobody from the family was present for his burial. We tried to resist but they overpowered us and even scuffled with women,” he said. 

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, one of the best known, and senior-most separatist leaders in Kashmir, reportedly died after a prolonged illness. According to international news media such as TRTworld, Geelani’s last wish was to be buried in Martyrs Graveyard in Eidgah”. Media reports also quoted unnamed family and friends stating that the local police had conveyed to them “that they will not allow this. After he passed away last night, the police arrived and demanded that we bury him immediately. We told the police we were waiting for some relatives to arrive so they could offer their final respects. We even assured them he will be buried at 6 A.M. But the police forced their entry and snatched the body. When we resisted we were manhandled.” 

His family members told TRT World that Geelani was buried “near his current residence in Srinagar’s Hyderpora area” instead of the Martyrs Graveyard in Eidgah, which is around 12 kilometres away from Hyderpora. Others told the media that the “police blocked all entries” and later informed that Geelani had been buried in the nearby graveyard at around 4 A.M “with the help of some members of the local mosque committee.” 

Though it may seem too early right now, the events that followed Geelani’s passing, are likely to have had a massive impact on the political mood in the valley. The security arrangements, the alleged blackout of information, and the bigger allegations from the family, will all be recalled in the future. 

When Geelani, announced his resignation from the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, as well as a retirement from politics in June last year, he had said, “In view of the present situation, I resign from All Parties Hurriyat Conference. I have informed all the constituents of the Hurriyat about the decision.” Geelani, was known across the world as a prominent separatist leader of Jammu and Kashmir politics. Geelani was chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, recognised as ‘the biggest separatist outfit in Kashmir’. He had reportedly been under house arrest since 2010 till the night he died. According to news reports, Geelani had also released a two-page letter in which he purportedly “accused other Hurriyat parties and leaders of inaction” after the Narendra Modi government scrapped Article 370 and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Geelani, even in retirement, remained a leader for his people, who were shocked that he was buried in a pre-dawn ceremony on Thursday even as strict security arrangements were placed. According to Al Jazeera only a few family members and a “few neighbours” were allowed to take part in the funeral. Soon after his death was announced, it was reported that “large contingents of police and paramilitary troopers in riot gear were deployed outside Geelani’s home” and that restrictions were imposed including a suspension of mobile and internet services.

Meanwhile condolences poured in for the veteran politician including those from Kashmir’s former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti:

But perhaps it was a tweet by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and other leaders paying tribute to Geelani, that set off sharp reactions online. Geelani had been awarded Pakistan’s highest civilian honour, the Nishan-e-Pakistan, by the government of Pakistan in 2020. 


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