His death has brought to an end a chapter of anti-India and separatist politics in Kashmir.

A file image of Syed Geelani briefing the pressFile image: PTI
news Death Thursday, September 02, 2021 - 08:38
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, avowedly a pro-Pakistan supporter who spearheaded the separatist movement in Jammu and Kashmir for over three decades, died at his residence in Srinagar on Wednesday night, officials said. Geelani (91), is survived by two sons and six daughters. He remarried after his first wife passed away in 1968. The separatist leader had been suffering from a kidney disease for over two decades, besides having other age-related issues, including dementia.

His death has brought to an end a chapter of anti-India and separatist politics in Kashmir. Born on September 29, 1929 in a village in Bandipora district, Geelani completed his education from Oriental College, Lahore. He worked as a teacher for a few years before joining Jamaat-e-Islami.  Strict restrictions have been imposed in Sopore district, the area from where he hailed. Security forces have been deployed in strength at vulnerable places for maintaining law and order.

Geelani, who was seen as a hawk among the separatist leadership of Kashmir, went on to become an MLA three times from Sopore constituency. He won the assembly elections in 1972, 1977 and 1987. Geelani, however, became an anti-election spearhead following the eruption of militancy in Kashmir in 1990. He was one of the founder-members of the Hurriyat Conference, a separatist amalgam of 26 parties but fell out with the moderates who advocated dialogue with the Union government for resolution of the Kashmir problem.

He launched his own Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Kashmir in 2003 following a vertical split in the Hurriyat Conference that he is believed to have engineered. He launched his own faction of the Hurriyat after bickering with moderates over the allegations of proxy participation in 2002 Assembly elections by the People's Conference led by Sajad Lone.

However, Geelani said goodbye to Hurriyat politics in June 2020 saying the second rung leadership did not rise to the occasion following abrogation of Article 370 by the Union government in 2019. He was suffering from kidney-related ailments since 2002 and had one of his kidneys removed due to problems. Geelani's health deteriorated over the past 18 months.

Despite being anti-mainstream politicians, Geelani was seen as well cultured and a civilised politician. His death drew condolences from even Sajad Lone, who once accused Geelani of making instigating statements that led to his father Abdul Gani Lone's killing. "Heartfelt condolences to the family of Syed Ali Shah Geelani Sahib. Was an esteemed colleague of my late father. May Allah grant him Jannat," Sajad Lone said.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted saying that she was saddened by the news of his death. She said, "We may not have agreed on most things but I respect him for his steadfastness and standing by his belief..."

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 up to it were sealed, with no one allowed to go there. Internet services are also likely to be suspended.
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