TSL News Network
JAMMU, Sept 2: Known once as Hartal man of Kashmir politics or soft peddler of terrorism; Pro-Pakistan hard-line separatist political leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani is no more.
Geelani died at his Hyderpora residence in Srinagar at 10.35 pm on Wednesday night. He was 91-year-old and would have turned 92 on September 29, 2021. Considered a hardliner among Hurriyat leaders, Geelani was best known for his calls for strike or hartal in the Kashmir Valley on one pretext or another. His rise as a separatist leader coincided with the rise of terrorism in Kashmir through 1990s, when he formed his own outfit Tehreek-e-Hurriyat after parting ways with his Jamaat-e-Islami.
In 2015, two years after having been elected as the Hurriyat chairman for the fourth time, Geelani was appointed as the lifetime chairman of the group. Before floating his own outfit, Geelani was an MLA in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, representing Sopore – the constituency where he was born – three times in 1971, 1977 and 1987. He turned to separatism in 1981, when his passport was seized for the first time for indulging in “anti-India activities”.
In 2010, Geelani was charged with sedition and had been mostly under house arrest since then. In 2015, Geelani applied for a fresh passport saying he wanted to visit his daughter in Saudi Arabia. His application was rejected as he had left the column of nationality blank. Two months later, he acknowledged his nationality as Indian and was granted a passport with a validity of nine months.
Since 1990s, Geelani had been calling for hartal every time a terrorist was killed in encounter with security forces. Similarly, he would give calls for boycott of elections to the state assembly and the Lok Sabha. But his appeal diminished in recent years. In 2014, Geelani gave a poll boycott call but the people returned with over 65 per cent voter turnout in the assembly election.
He was often targeted by Pakistan-based groups and reports suggest the Pakistani establishment was not happy with Geelani. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and turned it into two Union Territories – the other being Ladakh, Geelani had lost trust of his Pakistani backers. There were reports that groups in Pakistan attacked Geelani for what they called his failure to respond to scrapping of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, which ended its special status.
He would often hail terrorists with lavish praise. His name cropped up in cases related to terror funding, and money laundering. He condemned the killing of 9/11 accused Osama bin Laden in an operation by US Navy Seals in 2011, and led last rite prayers for him in Srinagar. He supported 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed and Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
Geelani kept his family safe from the turmoil in the Valley while encouraging others to join separatist forces and terror outfits. He would spend his life in Srinagar during summer and Delhi during winters.
Of his three children, the eldest Nayeem and his wife – both doctors – lived in Pakistan before returning to India in 2010. His other son Zahoor lives in Delhi with his family. Geelani’s daughter Farhat is a teacher in Jeddah.
Due to ill health, he had kept a low profile for the last few years. He was suffering from dementia and had grown hugely fragile and weak. Family has got into instant mourning. No details were immediately known about the funeral. Earlier, the family had said that he will be laid to rest in Hyderpora, not far away from his residence
Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti condoled the death of Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Twitter. She wrote, “Saddened by the news of Geelani sahab’s passing away. We may not have agreed on most things but I respect him for his steadfastness and standing by his beliefs. May Allah Tala grant him Jannat and condolences to his family and well-wishers.”