The veteran leader of the Kashmir freedom moment breathed his last at his residence in Srinagar where he was kept under house arrest on 1st September 2021. Syed Ali Shah Geelani of Kashmir is known as the symbol of courage and resistance throughout the world. He was detained in his house for most of his life since 2010 when an Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir (IIOK) faced a massive anti-India uprising.
His contributions to Kashmir’s cause can never be defied. Being an ardent supporter of Pakistan has been a major reason behind India’s atrocities against him. Despite being a proud Kashmiri, he always considered himself to be a Pakistani. He commenced his political career as a member of Jamaat-e-Islami and rose as an iconic figure due to being brusque.
He later joined the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) – a concoction of two dozen pro-freedom groups. He was elected as the president of the 24-party APHC for life which is a tribute to his services. In the later part of his life, he laid the foundations of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Group.
Throughout his life, he has been incarcerated many times by the Indian government due to his freedom struggle. It was in the recognition of his lifelong struggle against the illegal occupation of Kashmir by India that Pakistan awarded him with Nishan-e-Pakistan, the highest civilian honor of the country, on the 74th Independence Day of the country.
The funeral of Syed Ali Shah Geelani also became a source of unveiling the fascist face of the so-called Indian democracy as the government imposed restrictions in the valley and merely allowed his family and relatives to take part in his funeral prayers before snatching his body from the family. The Modi administration did not stop there and registered a case against his family members for raising pro-Pakistan slogans and wrapping his body in the Pakistani Flag.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani was born on 29th Sept 1929 in the village of Sopore in the Baramulla district of Kashmir. He got his initial education in his hometown and, then, traveled to Lahore for higher education. He studied Urdu, Persian, and Islamic jurisprudence along with theology.
On his return to Srinagar after completing his education in the 1940s, he joined Khidmat Daily, an Urdu-language newspaper, at the request of Allama Sayeed Masoodi, the then secretary-general of National Conference.
His encounter with Allama Saad Uddin, the then chief of Jamaat e Islami Jammu and Kashmir (JI) in 1949, while teaching at a government school, became the source of his close relation with Jamaat e Islami and its literature. He joined the party in 1952 as a member.
In 1959, he abdicated his government job to devote his life to the party’s activities and soon became the JI chief of the districts of Kupwara and Baramulla. Throughout his life, he has been arrested several times. He spent more than 12 years under custody.
He was incarcerated for raising the Kashmir issue in 1962 for the first time for a period of 13 months. In 1964, he was appointed as the secretary-general of JI because of his allegiance and dedication to the party and the Kashmir cause. He spent 22 months in imprisonment in 1965 in his second arrest.
He took part in several elections under the banner of JI. The party has been partaking in the electoral politics of the IIOK since the 1960s. In 1969, JI took part in local government elections. The party also took part in the 1972 general elections of the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani succeeded to win a seat in the provincial assembly in this election but protested against not allowing him to speak in Urdu, the official language of the state, in his maiden speech of that session. He also stood victorious in the 1977 elections but was defeated in the 1983 elections after which he was appointed as the party’s parliamentary affairs secretary.
He also defeated his opponent in the 1987’s elections despite the accusations of rigging. After the provincial elections of 1987, all the Muslim parties united under the Muslim United Front (MUF) against the pro-Indian parties like the National Conference.
The platform faced a heavy blow as only three candidates of the MUF other than Syed Ali Shah Geelani managed to secure victory due to rigging. All four winners were incarcerated and this marked the turning point in the history of the Kashmir movement. It marked the start of armed resistance as scores of the Kashmiri youth started an armed uprising against the Indian illegal occupation.
This agitation and rancor among the Kashmiri youth coerced the National Conference and its ally Congress to dissolve the government in the early 1990s. Political activities were banned and activists were imprisoned. Syed Ali Shah Geelani and three other members resigned in protest.
APHC and The Launch of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat
All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) was founded in 1992. It was a combination of more than two dozen pro-freedom parties who were seeking self-determination as per the United Nations resolutions. The Jamaat e Islami was represented by Mr. Geelani. The rise of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a new front in league with the Congress, in the aftermath of the defeat of the National Conference.
Geelani accused some of the APHC members of backstabbing the Kashmir cause by covertly assisting some pro-India candidates in the 2002 elections. This created a gulf in the APHC and divided the platform into two factions. By that time, Geelani’s stature reached such echelons that the entire valley could be closed in protest on his singe call.
Geelani laid the bedrock of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat in 2004. The nascent party not only attracted members from JI but people from different ideologies joined it. He also played a critical role in the 2008 uprisings. In 2010, he launched the “demilitarization movement”.
He was also at the forefront of protests against the martyrdom of Burhan Wani in 2016. He also opposed the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian government in 2019 and accused it to be a scheme to maneuver the demography of Kashmir.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Pakistan
Geelani has always advocated the alliance of Kashmir with Pakistan. He always rejected the idea of Kashmir as a separate country and maintained that it would not only be a chimera but will also be dangerous as it could divide the Muslim majority of Jammu and Kashmir into opposed camps. He always considered his national identity to be Pakistani, maintaining that Kashmir’s destiny lies with Pakistan.
His viral video in which he clamored that Hum Pakistani Hain, Pakistan Hamara Hai shows his love for Pakistan. Although he has always had a pro-Pakistan stance, he rejected the 4-point formula proposed by General Musharaf to resolve the Kashmir dispute in 2006. The demise of Syed Ali Shah Geelani not only saddened the Kashmiris but also Pakistanis.
The government officials in Pakistan have expressed their grief on his sad demise. Pakistan also observed official mourning; Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, while expressing his grief over Geelani’s demise, said that Geelani had strived all his life for the right of self-determination of Kashmiris and their fundamental rights.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister also appreciated the contributions and struggle of Syed Ali Shah Geelani and called him the torchbearer of the Kashmir Freedom Movement. Syed Ali Shah Geelani has left a legacy behind him and the chapter of the Kashmir movement will never be completed without reckoning his remarkable resistance.
Even his death has unveiled the true fascist face of the Modi government and the so-called Indian democracy. His struggle and politics will continue to inspire the generations of Kashmiris.
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