Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani passed away at his Srinagar residence on Wednesday night at 92 years of age. He had been under house arrest for around a decade.
A resident of north Kashmir’s Sopore, Geelani had been reportedly battling severe lung ailments and dementia. Security was tightened across the Valley for his last rites.
Geelani, born in 1929, in Bandipore’s Zurmanz village, was a three-time legislator from Sopore, and served as a senior member of the banned outfit Jamaat-e-Islami. He also headed the Hurriyat, which opposed dialogue with the Centre and advocated J&K’s accession with Pakistan, before he resigned in June 2020 - eight months after the Article 370 was rendered infructuous by the Parliament.
Sources in the home ministry had told NDTV that Geelani had quit the separatist body after 27 years of association, after he was sidelined by Pakistan and its army intelligence, the ISI. While stepping down, he accused the Hurriyat of conspiring against him and failing to fire up a violent movement after the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was scrapped. "Geelani's letter was an eye-opener. He admitted his path was wrong, Kashmir used for personal gains," state police chief Dilbagh Singh had told NDTV.
Geelani supported an armed struggle against India. He motivated thousands of Kashmiri youth to join the Islamist armed struggle in the 1990s. He called Islamist leader and founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Abul A'la Maududi his mentor. Apart from Islamists across the globe, Maududi's thoughts influenced the leadership of the Islamic State.
Geelani had condemned the killing of al-Qaeda terrorist Osama Bin Laden in 2011 by United States. After his death, Geelani led the last rite prayers in absentia in Srinagar for him amidst congregation of thousands of Kashmiris. He also supported 2001 Indian Parliament attack-accused Afzal Guru and Hafiz Saeed, the 2008 Mumbai Attacks mastermind and Lashkar-e-Taiba chief.
Geelani regularly met Pakistani leaders and was conferred Nishan-e-Pakistan, the country's highest civilian award in 2020.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called Geelani a 'Kashmiri freedom fighter', "We in Pakistan salute his courageous struggle and remember his words: 'Hum Pakistani hain aur Pakistan hamara hai.'" He announced that the Pakistan flag will fly at half mast and that a day of official mourning will be observed.
In 2019, the Enforcement Directorate levied a penalty of Rs 14.40 lakh on him and ordered confiscation of nearly Rs 6.8 lakh in connection with a FEMA case against him.
Geelani married twice and had six children. One of his sons practiced medicine in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, for 12 years, but reportedly came back to India in 2010. Another of his sons works at an agricultural university in Srinagar. Both have been questioned by NIA in terror-funding cases.
Different media reports mentioned that while the leaders of Hurriyat called up the youth to devote their life to armed struggle, their own children were leading lavish lives in "safe haven".
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