Geelani, Kashmir’s strongest anti-India chief, dies on the age of 92 | World information
By AIJAZ HUSSAIN and SHEIKH SAALIQ, Associated Press
SRINAGAR, India (AP) – Syed Ali Geelani, an icon of the controversial Kashmiri resistance to Indian rule and a leading separatist leader who became the emblem of the region’s resistance against New Delhi, died late Wednesday. He was 92.
Geelani died with his family at his home in Srinagar, the capital of the region, a counselor and his relative told The Associated Press.
Shortly after the news broke, numerous Kashmiris gathered at his home in the Hyderpora neighborhood of Srinagar to mourn the death of Geelani, who had spent most of his life under house arrest and suffered from various diseases.
Authorities announced blocking communications and restricting public movement, a common tactic used by Indian officials in anticipation of anti-India protests. They quickly dispatched heavy contingents of armed police and soldiers across the Kashmir Valley to prevent people from attending Geelani’s funeral.
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Troops with automatic rifles also blocked roads leading to Geelani’s residence while armored vehicles patrolled the neighborhoods. Despite restrictions, many mosques in towns and villages in the region announced Geelani’s death and urged people to take to the streets.
Geelani was an ideologue and a staunch supporter of the merger of Kashmir with Pakistan. Over the years he had repeatedly said no to all talks with New Delhi, claiming that “India cannot be trusted unless it names Kashmir a disputed territory, demilitarizes the region and releases political prisoners for meaningful dialogue. “
The position has been completely rejected by subsequent Indian governments, and he has often been referred to as a hard-line politician.
Kashmir has known little as conflict since 1947, when British rule of the subcontinent divided the territory between India and Pakistan. Both countries claim the entire region for themselves and have fought two wars for them.
Kashmir’s anger over Indian rule has been simmering for a long time. After a series of political mistakes, broken promises and crackdown on dissenting opinions, Kashmiri activists launched a full-blown armed revolt against Indian rule in 1989.
India describes the armed rebellion as Islamabad’s proxy war and state sponsored terrorism. Most Muslim Kashmiris consider it a legitimate struggle for freedom and support the rebels’ goal of unifying the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
The region is one of the most militarized in the world. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces were killed in the angry conflict.
An Islamist author and ardent public speaker, Geelani began his career as a school teacher and later joined Kashmir’s largest religious and political party, Jamat-e-Islami, in the 1950s. He ran three local government elections, but resigned as a legislator in the late 1980s to join the anti-India campaign and became the face of the Kashmiri resistance until his death.
He spent nearly 15 years in various Indian prisons and was also a member of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference, a conglomerate of diverse political and religious groups in Kashmir that was founded in 1993 to lead a movement for the region’s self-determination. The group used civil disobedience in the form of closings and protests as tactics to counter Indian rule.
In August 2019, when India robbed the region of semi-autonomy, the Indian authorities cracked down on the group’s leaders, arresting many of them and excluding them from public protests.
As a sacred figure in Kashmir, Geelani’s popularity was catapulted to almost awe after 2008 when the region witnessed mass uprisings and he became a prominent resistance leader among the new generation of Kashmiris. Hundreds of young people were killed by Indian armed forces in street protests in the years that followed.
As civil resistance to Indian rule increased, Geelani founded Joint Resistance Leadership in 2016 with two other high-ranking anti-Indian politicians, Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who are still in custody. The group claimed India’s sovereignty over Kashmir and tried to give direction to people’s anger.
During the last few years of civil protests in Kashmir, the slogan “Na Jhukne Wala Geelani! Well Bikne Wala, Geelani! (Geelani, who doesn’t bow and can’t be bought!) “Became almost a cry of war in the streets. He was widely worshiped by Kashmiris who nicknamed him “Bub”, which means “the father”.
“Although he died of natural causes, we must remember the immense physical and psychological toll his continued imprisonment and torture have put on his health,” said Stand With Kashmir, a US-based international solidarity group of the Kashmiri diaspora.
Geelani was also widely respected by the region’s pro-Indian politicians.
“We may disagree on most things, but I respect him for his steadfastness and standing by his faith,” Mehbooba Mufti, the region’s former top elected official, said on Twitter.
Geelani’s maximalist approach forced India to woo so-called moderate separatist leaders in Kashmir, but with no apparent breakthrough in settling the dispute.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was “deeply saddened” by Geelani’s death and that the leader had “fought all his life for his people and their right to self-determination”.
Under Khan, Geelani received the “Nishan-e-Pakistan” in 2020, Pakistan’s highest civilian honor, an award that Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro and Queen Elizabeth II had previously received.
“We in Pakistan applaud his brave struggle and remember his words:” Hum Pakistani hain aur Pakistan Humara hai (We are Pakistani and Pakistani is ours), “Khan said in a tweet.
Khan said his country will observe an official day of mourning on Thursday and the Pakistani flag will fly at half mast.
“Geelani was without a doubt a symbol of our resistance against India, which began in 1990,” said Siddiq Wahid, historian and former vice-chancellor of a university in Kashmir. “That is his legacy.”
Saaliq reported from New Delhi.
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