Face of Separatist Politics, Pro-Pakistan Hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani No More
Geelani had been the motivation for thousands of Kashmiri militants to join the resistance in the 1990s.
Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Vivek Gupta
Veteran Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, passed away at his residence in Srinagar late on the evening of Wednesday, 1 September.
Geelani was a lifelong chairperson of the ‘All Party Hurriyat Conference’ (APHC) and a member of Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI). The 92-year-old had supported an armed struggle against India, and had been the motivation for thousands of Kashmiri militants to join the resistance in the 1990s.
Geelani was born in 1929, in Bandipore’s Zurmanz village. He was an elected member of the J&K legislative assembly, representing the Sopore constituency in north Kashmir in 1972, 1977, and 1987. However, his last term ended abruptly when militancy spread in the Valley.
‘Kashmiri Freedom Fighter’: Pakistan PM Imran Khan
Calling Geelani a 'Kashmiri freedom fighter', Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said after Geelani’s passing away, "We in Pakistan salute his courageous struggle and remember his words: 'Hum Pakistani hain aur Pakistan hamara hai.'"
Khan announced that the Pakistan flag will fly at half mast and that a day of official mourning will be observed.
A sworn votary of Kashmir’s accession to theocratic Pakistan, Geelani had changed his affiliations quite a few times in his 70-year-long political career.
After serving three terms in the assembly, and having taken many oaths of upholding India’s sovereignty and integrity, Geelani called Jammu and Kashmir a ‘disputed territory’, and pleaded for its solution – ‘either through tripartite talks between India, Pakistan, and Kashmir, or through the implementation of the United Nations resolutions of 1948 and 1949’.
Jammu and Kashmir Tehreek-e-Hurriyat
From 1993 to 2003, Geelani served as the APHC’s chairperson. However, his support for militancy and a sustained criticism of chairperson Mirwaiz Umer Farooq to take action against the late Abdul Gani Lone’s Peoples Conference, for proxy participation in the assembly elections of 2002, led to a split in the APHC.
Most of the pro-Pakistan constituents sided with Geelani, however, groups like Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, High Court Bar Association and Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) stood neutral.
Later, in August 2004, separating from JEI, Geelani launched his own Jammu and Kashmir Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (JKTH), having lured cadre from JEI.
More than a decade later, on 29 June 2020, Geelani resigned from the APHC, an amalgam of over two dozen separatist and pro-Pakistan outfits, surprising many, for it was seen as a betrayal of the fissures in Kashmir’s separatist camp.
This came after the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in 2019, and bifurcated it into two union territories.
Geelani's daughter Ruwa Shah had then written in an essay for Al Jazeera, "Aba’s health deteriorated rapidly after 5 August 2019 – the day the Indian government scrapped Kashmir’s partial autonomy. He fell into a deep depression, and for good reason – since that day, almost all members of his party are behind bars."
She had further written, "I, of course, know Aba is never really going to leave us. Even when he is no longer physically with us, his devotion to Kashmir and the suffering he endured for our freedom will be remembered and honoured by generations of Kashmiris to come."
Meanwhile, fearful that Geelani's funeral might attract large crowds, the police has imposed restrictions across the Valley, including suspension of internet services.
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