Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the separatist leader from Jammu and Kashmir, passed away at his residence late Wednesday night at the age of 92, after a prolonged illness. Founder of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, he served as the chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), a group of pro-separatist parties in Jammu and Kashmir.
Geelani, who quit politics in June last year, had been under house detention for over a decade. He rejected Indian rule and demanded a merger of Kashmir with Pakistan. He rejected any and all conversations with India over the future of the region. After August 2019’s abolition of Article 370, Geelani was confined to his house due to his weak health.
Kashmir’s former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, offered her condolences over the leader’s death. “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,” Mufti tweeted.
The politician’s death comes at a trying time for the Hurriyat as the party is in a disarray over the crackdown by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Worried about his death attracting crowds and protests in the Indian-administered Kashmir, police and military troopers have been deployed outside his house. Police sources suggest that a curfew could be imposed.
Geelani’s legacy will be that of a hardliner, the one who stood up to New Delhi after the 2014 incident of Tihar Jail, where parents of Javaid Ahmed Khan were victims to custodial violence and harassment.
He was sympathetic to Jamat-e-Islami, and referred to its founder, Abul A'la Maududi, as his mentor. Geelani said that even though he supported Pakistan, the decision of Kashmir lies in the hands of its people.
In 2020, Geelani was bestowed with the Nishan-e-Pakistan, Pakistan’s highest civilian honour. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan said that the country will observe official mourning and the country’s flag will fly half mast.