Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a leader of the Kashmiri separatist movement and a former leader of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), passed away on September 1, 2021. On this day in 2021, shortly after Geelani’s demise, Indian authorities tightened security in occupied Kashmir by imposing a strict curfew. The occupational forces didn’t allow his family and relatives to perform his funeral and forcibly took his body and buried in a local graveyard. Geelani, who was 91 years old, was an ideologue who advocated the integration of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan. On both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) and all over the world this year, Kashmiris are commemorating the two-year mark of Baba-e-Hurriyat Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s martyrdom and reaffirming their commitment to continuing their fight for independence from Indian control.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani was a staunchly maximalist leader of the Kashmiri separatist movement who believed that demilitarization and recognition of Kashmir’s status as a disputed region were the only ways of initiating a dialogue with India. When Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the region’s then chief minister, enforced the strict Public Safety Act, Geelani, a vocal opponent of the Public Safety Act of India (PSA), challenged him. It was first implemented to stop the smuggling of lumber but later, it was altered to ban political figures and anyone could be detained for up to two years under the statute without a trial. Amnesty International has referred to PSA’s implementation as illegal and lawless.
Syed Geelani, who was born on September 29, 1929, in a village near Wular Lake, began his political career in 1952 on the foundation of Jammat-e-Islami (JeI). As the district chief for Kupwara and Baramulla, he quickly gained popularity. His first arrest happened on August 28, 1962, when he was imprisoned for questioning the accession and urging an end to the Kashmir conflict and he spent nearly 12 years of his life behind bars. Prior to 1987’s provincial elections, Geelani was a key player in the formation of the Muslim United Front (MUF). He organized all Muslim parties into the MUF to compete with pro-India parties. In a fiercely contested election, only four of the candidates on the candidate platform, including Geelani, were successful in winning seats. The Indian government thereafter detained Geelani and the other winners. A platform for 30 pro-freedom parties advocating for Kashmir’s right to self-determination was established in 1992 with the establishment of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). Geelani served as the JeI’s representative. The Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (Movement of Freedom), founded by Geelani and Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai in August 2004, came to symbolize dissent in the civil unrest that followed 2008.
The demilitarization movement was started by Syed Ali Gillani in 2009, and a massive rebellion was set off by the killing of three civilians by Indian forces in a fake skirmish along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Machil area of the Kupwara district in 2010. Geelani was leading the charge. In 2016, rallies were organized by Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and Muhammad Yasin Malik in response to the barbaric execution of popular young freedom fighter Burhan Wani by Indian security forces. After the Indian government revoked Kashmir’s special constitutional status on August 5, 2019, Geelani was put under house arrest and confined to his residence till his death.
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Syed Ali Geelani was a foresighted and visionary leader since he warned against the settlement of Indian employees and military in Kashmir and the provision of voting rights in order to compel a demographic shift in the year 2015. In 1993, he sent a letter to Bill Clinton, the president of the United States at the time, stating that the pro-freedom resistance in Kashmir would continue “as long as the leadership of India refuses to recognize the basic and inherent right of the 12 million people (of J&K) to decide their political future and act on the UN Security Council resolutions in this regard.”
Geelani’s life was filled with battle for the Kashmiri people, and as a result of his fight for freedom and self-determination, he has had to endure all the brutalities of the Indian government. Of course, there is no substitute of Syed Ali Geelani but the people of Kashmir are resolved to carry on his legacy and fight for their freedom. People recall Geelani as a man who India “could not buy” through inducements or “bend” because of fear of detention. Geelani also received Nishan-e-Pakistan from the Pakistani government as a tribute to his fight for the freedom of IIOJK.