Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a three-time legislator from the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and an open supporter of Pakistan, led separatist politics for more than three decades. He was called the ‘Hattal Man’ (the striker) for repeatedly calling for a bandh as a strategy to disturb the law and order situation in the Kashmir Valley.
Hardline separatist leader Geelani died on Wednesday night at his residence in Srinagar at the age of 91 after a prolonged illness. He was buried in a mosque located near his house in Hyderpora on the outskirts of the city. Some close family members were present on this occasion.
The white-bearded Gilani was always spewing venom against India. He was one of the few leaders of the pre-Partition era who never believed in moderate separatism and was vocal against any peaceful move during the days of his association with the Hurriyat Conference. Hurriyat Conference was a group of 26 parties which was formed in 1993.
During his political career spanning more than five decades, Geelani was one of the few leaders to have addressed the crucial phases of its partition, starting with the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India in 1947 and ending the special status of the erstwhile state in 2019. Be a witness.
Firm on his ideology of merging Kashmir with Pakistan, Geelani was jailed several times after the start of militancy in 1990.
Geelani’s stance became more radical with the strengthening of electoral politics from 1996 onwards, resulting in the split of the Hurriyat Conference in 2003. After that he formed his own Tehreek-e-Hurriyat. The reason for this was that he did not want to show himself close to New Delhi.
A setback for the hardline leader came in 2002 when the Income Tax Department raided his residence and claimed to have recovered unaccounted cash worth $10,000, apart from a diamond-studded watch gifted by the Pakistan government. He was arrested and sent to Jharkhand Jail, where his health deteriorated and he was shifted to a hospital in Mumbai. He was later released on health grounds. He has an income tax liability of Rs 1.73 crore and the Enforcement Directorate tax liability of over Rs 14 lakh.
After the Amarnath land standoff in 2008 when the then state government proposed to allow the construction of a temporary structure for the annual pilgrimage, Geelani led an agitation. Soon he was seen as a ‘strike man’ to disrupt the situation in the valley.
He reiterated this approach of calling for a strike during the 2009 agitation in Shopian, where bodies of two women were found from a drain. It was initially alleged that she was raped and killed by the security forces, which was not true as the postmortem report revealed that she had drowned in the drain. However, Geelani held her for about 45 days.
In 2010, Geelani repeated his 2008 performance and led a protest in the Kashmir Valley after a youth was killed by tear gas shells.
Geelani had refused to open his doors to a parliamentary delegation that had visited the Kashmir Valley. The Valley was affected by Geelani’s call for a strike following the death of Burhan Wani, the poster boy of banned terrorist organization Hizbul Mujahideen.
Geelani was criticized by the civil society for playing with the careers of children by repeatedly calling for bandhs which badly affected the education system as well as the tourism sector. Tourism was the mainstay of livelihood for many people in the Kashmir Valley.
Gilani was often angry with Pakistan when it came to building a healthy relationship with India. He disagreed with former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in New Delhi in 2005 over his four-point plan to resolve the Kashmir dispute.
Former RAW chief and Officer on Special Duty to the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, AS Dulat, in his book on Kashmir, had called Geelani the “father of jihad”.
Geelani’s call for boycott of elections also had no effect and the polling percentage increased after the 2002 elections.
After suffering from several ailments and being sidelined by Pakistan, Geelani had in June 2020 bid farewell to Hurriyat politics, saying the second generation leadership followed the abolition of most provisions of Article 370 by the Center in 2019. Didn’t protest properly.
Gilani’s health deteriorated over the past 18 months and he was suffering from dementia after a pacemaker was implanted and a kidney removed.
Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Ahmed Shah and hardliner Masrat Alam, who was at the fore in carrying forward the legacy of Geelani’s separatist politics, are currently in a case filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) related to the financing of various terror outfits in the Kashmir Valley. are in jail.
Born on September 29, 1929, Geelani completed his education from the Oriental College in Lahore and worked as a teacher for a few years before joining Jamaat-e-Islami. Jamaat-e-Islami has now been banned.