In Photos | The Night When Rumours Finally Ended

Syed Ali Geelani

Battling chronic ailments and house captivity for years, the top Hurriyat leader finally breathed his last at the age of 92. His passing became one of the hushed political farewells of Kashmir.

DAYS after Tehreek-e-Hurriyat’s office board was removed amid the reports of the possible proscription of the separatist camp, the outfit’s ailing patron yet again set the speculations afire. A flurry of telling tweets—some of them even fading in a jiffy for the fear of reprisal—made the chronic rumours about the nonagenarian leader’s unsound health quite credible.

Fresh rumours spread at 10:30pm on September 1, 2021, about the possible death of Syed Ali Geelani.

Soon the news reports quoting family sources sealed the fate of the man whose “uncompromised” political stand made him a prominent separatist of Kashmir during his lifetime.

Geelani’s death came four months after his deputy Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai “died in custody” in Jammu jail on May 5, 2021.

Following his demise, all the roads leading to Hyderpora were sealed. A posse of police and paramilitary forces were deployed on a war-footing. They regulated the movement behind drop-gates, concertina wires and barricades. Armoured jeeps and trucks patrolled the thoroughfares, with cops appealing people not to go out on the streets.

However, as “a precautionary measure”, Kashmir police chief, IGP Vijay Kumar soon announced internet shutdown and restrictions in the region. Kumar was even seen making a nocturnal visit to Hyderpora in an apparent bid to check dissent.

By then, a number of journalists had managed to reach Hyderpora to capture some farewell moments.

“We were outside the graveyard where Geelani was supposed to be buried when a top police official asked us to leave the place,” a senior photojournalist told Kashmir Observer.

Over 30 journalists assembled under the Hyderpora Flyover were waiting to click the fallen leader’s funeral. But to their chagrin, they were barred from covering it.

On one side of the flyover, cops stood relaxed for “managing it well”, while a battery of reporters looked desperate on the other side.

“It’s very unfortunate that we weren’t allowed to freeze the last moments of the top Hurriyat leader,” a senior photojournalist said.

Born on September 29, 1929, at Zurmanz, a postcard village on the banks of the Wular Lake in Bandipora, Geelani fought unionist politics before emerging as the face of defiance in Kashmir.

An ideologue and a proponent of the merger of J&K with Pakistan, Geelani had joined the socio-religious Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) as a young boy. His subsequent political schooling at Mujahid Manzil—where he rubbed shoulders with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Sofi Mohammad Akbar among others—greatly influenced his personality.

For his “unbending” conviction, he survived a dozen assassination bids and faced multiple incarcerations. Fearing his sway on masses, Geelani faced house-arrests right from 2008—the year Kashmir witnessed the massive outpouring against the controversial land deal.

Barring a breather in 2014, the man with multiple health ailments remained confined to his Hyderpora house.

During his home captivity, his videos went viral on social media, including the one in which he refuses to open his door to the visiting Indian parliamentary delegation at the peak of 2016 street protests.

But as his health started deteriorating from that year, the state and its agencies were on toes whenever any word about his death would spread. The funeral plans for the leader were purportedly being prepared for the years.

“He was such a huge personality that both India and Pakistan prepared for the funeral prayers even before his death,” said a top police official. “His death and subsequent funeral was a headache for the state, so we were well prepared.”

At around 4:00am, Geelani was laid to rest in a quiet funeral organised by authorities. “They snatched his body and forcibly buried him,” Naseem Geelani, his son, told AP. “Nobody from the family was present for his burial. We tried to resist but they overpowered us and even scuffled with women.”

Hours after his burial, a video leaked on social media showed Geelani’s family members—especially womenfolk—raising hue and cry over the snatching bid of the body. In that deafening din, many say, the Hurriyat leader’s house-captivity finally ended.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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