Pakistan condemns Indian actions as Syed Ali Geelani denied 'proper' funeral

Published September 2, 2021
In this file photo taken on August 19, 2014 Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani arrives at the Pakistan embassy in New Delhi. — AFP
In this file photo taken on August 19, 2014 Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani arrives at the Pakistan embassy in New Delhi. — AFP
Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard near the residence of Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani after his death at the age of 92 in Srinagar late on September 1. — AFP
Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard near the residence of Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani after his death at the age of 92 in Srinagar late on September 1. — AFP

Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, who passed away on Wednesday, was buried in a tightly controlled pre-dawn ceremony on Thursday morning as Indian authorities imposed a lockdown across Indian-occupied Kashmir — actions condemned by Pakistan.

Thousands of police personnel were deployed soon after to try and prevent unrest in the region.

Geelani was buried at a cemetery near his home in the main city of Srinagar, a police source told AFP. Only a small number of his relatives were present, including two of his sons, the source added.

Geelani, the most outspoken critic of India who spent several years in jail or under house arrest, had wanted to be buried at the Martyrs Cemetery in Srinagar. But authorities rejected that request, the police source said.

“We basically took control of the arrangements,” the official said.

Residents said authorities acted out of fear of mass mourning turning into unrest. “Troops are everywhere, there are barbed wire blockades on every main road,” said one.

After the death became known, announcements were made from loudspeakers of the main mosque near Geelani's residence asking people to march towards the house.

But police said no one in the valley would be allowed to leave their homes.

'True voice of Kashmiris'

The Foreign Office (FO) paid tribute to Geelani, calling him a "true voice and hero of the Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination".

In a statement issued early on Thursday, FO spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad said that the government and the people of Pakistan deeply mourned "the passing away of the iconic leader of the Kashmiri resistance".

The nation pays rich tribute to his life-long struggle for justice and freedom, he said.

"[Geelani] inspired three generations of Kashmiris in resisting illegal Indian occupation and unabated tyranny. He was a true voice and hero of the Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination, who never lost his ideological moorings for a single moment," the FO spokesperson said.

"May he continue to be an inspiration for those carrying his mission forward to bring an end to the illegal Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir," he added.

Prime Minister Imran Khan was among the first to pay tribute to Geelani, tweeting that he was “deeply saddened” at the death of the “Kashmiri freedom fighter” who had been under house arrest for most of the past 11 years.

Geelani had been ill for several months with heart and kidney problems.

The premier said that Geelani had “struggled all his life for his people and their right to self-determination". "He suffered incarceration and torture by the occupying Indian state but remained resolute," he said.

He declared a day of national mourning in Pakistan.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressed grief on the demise of the late Kashmiri leader, saying that Geelani would always be remembered.

Addressing a session organised by think tank Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, Qureshi said, "Every Pakistani, every Kashmiri, every freedom fighter, all those elements who have stood up for basic fundamental human rights will recognise what he (Geelani) stood for."

He added that he was saddened by how the Indian forces had encircled Geelani's house after his death and treated his family.

"They forced the family to bury him without a proper funeral," he lamented. "Everybody knows that there would have been a huge, huge namaz-i-janaza (funeral) for him, and the Indian forces were too scared to even allow that."

Qureshi said the way Indian forces had trampled on the fundamental right of organising a proper funeral for Geelani saddened him.

He prayed that may Allah bless Geelani's soul with the highest place in Jannah.

"His (Geelani's) eminence, his character and his tenacity is a tale in itself and a source of guidance, and he has set some guiding principles for Kashmiris who are leading this struggle," Qureshi said, and expressed hope that the youth in Kashmir would carry forward Geelani's mission.

FO condemns 'snatching' of Geelani's remains

The FO spokesperson also strongly condemned the "barbaric act of snatching [Geelani's] mortal remains" by Indian occupation forces.

"As the family was preparing for the last rites, a heavy contingent of occupation forces raided his residence in Srinagar, harassed family members and snatched Geelani’s body.

"When the family members told the raiding party that Geelani’s will was to be buried in the Cemetery of Martyrs in Srinagar, they were reportedly told that India would not allow Geelani’s burial at the place of his choosing," the FO spokesperson said.

The Indian government is so afraid of Geelani and what he stood for that they have now resorted to this inhuman act even after his passing, he said.

"This shows the degree of callousness on part of the occupation forces and demonstrates beyond doubt that India would trample all civil and human values in perpetuating its occupation of Kashmir," he said,

He noted that a curfew had been imposed in the occupied valley and internet services had been "snapped".

"The international community must take serious note of this unprecedented and egregious situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and hold India to account for its breaches of international human rights and humanitarian laws," the FO spokesperson said.

Separatist thorn

Geelani had been a thorn in India's side since the early 1960s when he began campaigning for the territory's merger with Pakistan.

He also pursued his separatist calls as a member of the Kashmir assembly.

The veteran politician was jailed for nearly 10 years after 1962 and was often restricted to his home after that.

Since his youth, Geelani had been a member of Jamaat-i-Islami, the largest political-religious organisation in occupied Kashmir that was banned by India's Hindu nationalist government in 2019.

He rejected any notion of direct talks with the New Delhi government unless it formally “accepts Kashmir as a disputed territory” and stopped describing the region as an “integral part of India”.

Indian governments of all political colours have insisted on sovereignty over occupied Kashmir.

Geelani was also a staunch critic of the sporadic but failed attempts at dialogue between India and Pakistan. His hardline stance also had critics in occupied Kashmir.

Mehbooba Mufti, a former chief minister of occupied Kashmir, said on Twitter: “We may not have agreed on most things but I respect him for his steadfastness and standing by his beliefs.”

Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir is one of the world's most militarised zones, with 500,000 Indian security forces deployed in the region.

Tens of thousands, mainly civilians, have died since an insurgency erupted in 1989.

India has been struggling to bring normal life back to Kashmir after it cancelled the region's semi-autonomous status and divided it into two centrally controlled territories in August 2019.

A security clampdown imposed at the time saw mobile internet services cut for more than a year. Scores of political leaders were detained and many are still not free.

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed the move was intended to bring peace and prosperity to occupied Kashmir.

Separatist leaders said it was to punish the Muslim population.

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