Jammu and Kashmir separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani died in his home in Srinagar on Wednesday night. Under house arrest since 2008, the 92-year-old politician had been unwell for several months.
The funeral took place on Thursday amid tight security, The Caravan reported. Only close relatives and neighbours of the separatist leader were allowed to attend his last rites, according to the Hindustan Times.
Strict security measures were enforced in Jammu and Kashmir after the death of Geelani, who, since the early 1960s, had campaigned for the former state to be merged with Pakistan. He was opposed to talks with the Indian government for years.
Geelani had also been a part of the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference since the 1990s. He broke away to form his own faction, the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, in 2003.
He quit as chairperson of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat in June 2020, eight months after the Centre scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and downgraded the state into two Union territories.
A three-time MLA from Sopore, he had fought the Assembly elections in the erstwhile state on a Jamaat-e-Islami ticket.
After Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s death, his son Naseem Geelani alleged that the police did not allow his family to bury him at the main martyrs’ graveyard in Srinagar.
“They snatched his body and forcibly buried him,” Naseem Geelani told AP. “Nobody from the family was present for his burial. We tried to resist but they overpowered us and even scuffled with women.”
But the police claimed that Geelani’s relatives participated in his last rites.
“The police facilitated in bringing the dead body from the house to graveyard as there was apprehension that miscreants might take undue advantage of [the] situation,” Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar said.
Public movement curtailed, communications blocked
Restrictions, including the suspension of internet, have been imposed in the Valley, Kumar told ANI. All cell phone networks except BSNL postpaid connections have also been blocked.
Roads have been barricaded and additional troops have been deployed in Srinagar’s old city and in North Kashmir. Officials intercepted vehicles at several places. Entry to Srinagar or other major towns have been closed, reported the Hindustan Times.
A witness outside Geelani’s residence in Srinagar’s Hyderpora neighbourhood said that the police and paramilitary forces have sealed the area with barbed wires.
“I saw dozens of police and CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force] vehicles stationed in the area,” the local, who did not want to be identified, told Scroll.in. “The mobilisation of security personnel on the ground is very high.”
Condolences pour in
Peoples Democratic Party leader and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed grief after Geelani’s death. “We may not have agreed on most things but I respect him for his steadfastness and standing by his beliefs,” she tweeted.
Peoples Conference chairperson Sajad Lone conveyed his condolences to Geelani’s family. “Was an esteemed colleague of my late father,” he said.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called Geelani a “freedom fighter” and declared a day of official mourning. He said the separatist leader had “struggled all his life for his people and their right to self-determination”.
“We in Pakistan salute his courageous struggle and remember his words: “Hum Pakistani hain aur Pakistan humara hai [We are Pakistani and Pakistan is ours],” Khan tweeted.