Syed Ali Geelani, avowedly a pro-Pakistan supporter who spearheaded the separatist movement in Jammu and Kashmir for over three decades, was buried in Srinagar’s Hyderpora area at 4:37 am on Thursday. Mobile internet was shut down in Kashmir valley as a precautionary measure to prevent confusion due to spread of rumours.
The 91-year-old separatist leader died on Wednesday night after suffering from a kidney disease for over two decades, besides having other age-related issues, including dementia. He was buried at a mosque near his residence according to his wishes, his close aides said. However, his son Naeem said that they wanted to bury him at the Idgah in downtown Srinagar.
His family was asked to carry out the burial at night as a precautionary measure as intelligence reports suggested that some anti-national elements may use this to create a law and order situation in the Kashmir Valley. Officials said that authorities took Geelani’s body and buried him according to rituals at the graveyard of the mosque under heavy police protection.
Geelani had expressed desire to be buried at the mosque at Hyderpora, his close aides said. Strict restrictions were imposed throughout the Valley to prevent people from assembling and there was heavy deployment of security forces to thwart any untoward incident. Mobile phone services, barring post-paid connections of state-run BSNL, and internet were shut down as a precautionary measure to prevent rumours and fake news from circulating.
Barricades had been erected at various places and all vehicles were being thoroughly checked.
A three-time MLA in the erstwhile state from Sopore, Geelani had virtually become the face of agitation in the 2008 Amarnath land row, 2010 agitation sparked by killing of a youth in Srinagar. Shortly after the news broke in Kashmir, scores of Kashmiris converged at his home in Hyderpora neighborhood to mourn the death of Geelani, who remained under house arrest much of the time since 2008.
He was the founder member of Hurriyat Conference but broke away and formed his own Tehreek-e-Hurriyat in early 2000. He finally bid farewell to his own Hurriyat Conference in June 2020. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed condolences over Geelani’s death on his official Twitter handle. Khan announced, “The Pakistan flag will fly at half mast and we will observe a day of official mourning."
Pakistan’s General Qamar Javed Bajwa called the separatist leader an “icon", and expressed “deepest grief" on his demise. In 2020, the neighbouring country had awarded him the Nishan-e-Pakistan.
A report in Times of India said Geelani’s death came days after speculation of an imminent ban on both factions of the Hurriyat had led to a signboard of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat being hurriedly removed from the annexe of his family home.
In a way, it seemed to mark the passing of the Hurriyat mantle to the other faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who remained defiant amid murmurs of a ban, teh report stated.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted saying that she was saddened by the news of his death. “We may not have agreed on most things but I respect him for his steadfastness and standing by his belief…"
People’s Conference (PC) chairman Sajad Lone said, “Heartfelt condolences to the family of Syed Ali Shah Geelani Sahib. Was an esteemed colleague of my late father. May Allah grant him Jannat." Geelani would be buried at the place of his choice in the neighbourhood of Hyderpora in the outskirts of the city. His passport was seized in 1981 and never returned, barring an exception in 2006 to facilitate him to perform Hajj pilgrimage.
There were several cases pending against him in the Enforcement Directorate, police and Income Tax Department. Pro-Geelani slogans and messages announcing his death were broadcast over loudspeakers from mosques in Kashmir valley.
Police said curfew-like restrictions have been imposed in Kashmir as a precautionary measure. A heavy police bandobast was seen around Geelani’s residence and the roads leading upto it were sealed, with no one allowed to go there. Internet services are also likely to be suspended.
Strict restrictions have been imposed in Sopore district, the area from where he belonged. Security forces have been deployed in strength at vulnerable places for maintaining law and order.
(With PTI inputs)