ISLAMABAD: Tributes were paid to Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the veteran pro-freedom leader from Indian-occupied Kashmir, who passed away on Wednesday, for his unwavering commitment to the cause.
The 91-year-old died at his home in Srinagar, the capital of the disputed region, where he was under house arrest for the better part of the last decade.
He was buried in a tightly controlled pre-dawn ceremony on Thursday as Indian authorities imposed a lockdown.
His family alleged that police forcibly snatched Geelani’s body and buried him in a local graveyard, some 200 meters away from his Hyderpora residence — against the leader’s wishes who wanted to be buried in Martyrs Graveyard, Kashmir’s largest cemetery.
The clampdown has been condemned by Pakistan and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission.
Police, however, called the allegations “baseless” and “propaganda,” saying they facilitated the burial process to avoid any untoward incident.
“Similar restrictions and internet shutdown will continue tomorrow. We shall review the situation […] and take further course of action,” a statement read.
The Malaysia Consultative Council of Islamic Organisations, a coalition of Islamic organisations in Malaysia, called Geelani’s death a “great loss for the Kashmir cause.”
Mohammad Azmi Abdul Hamid, president of MAPIM, hailed the veteran leader as “a great inspiration for all Kashmiris.”
“We salute his resoluteness to pursue the struggle for freedom and self-determination. He was an inspirational figure who showed great leadership and courage in establishing the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (Movement for Freedom) group,” he said in a statement.
‘TICKING TIME BOMB’:
Mubeen Ahmed Shah, a Kashmiri businessman and diaspora leader, said denying Geelani a traditional and dignified burial is “not only shameful for India but for the entire international community.”
“A so-called democracy is doing it and the international community is silent,” he told Anadolu Agency over the phone. “Kashmiris will never forget this treatment […] the situation is a ticking time bomb.”
‘LIKE A ROCK’:
US-based Kashmiri rights group Stand with Kashmir said Geelani stood like a rock in the face of India’s “illegitimate and repressive occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.”
“Geelani sahib was a firm believer of the Pakistan movement as a homeland for the Indian subcontinent’s Muslims, and advocated for Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan,” it said in a statement.
“He never wavered in his principles and relentlessly stood for Kashmiris’ right to self-determination. His life was an example of unfettered resolve and passionate resistance. He always spoke truth to power, for which he spent years under detention in Indian prisons.”
Ghulam Nabi Fai, a Washington-based Kashmiri diaspora leader, said Geelani’s decision to “not give up on the UN has been right all along.”
“The UN Security Council resolutions provide a critical international justification for waging the Kashmiri struggle. Although the struggle has been so long, the cause is finally attracting more attention, and the world is more aware of the cause that Geelani struggled for,” he said in a statement.
Recalling his first meeting with Geelani in 1963, Fai, who is also the secretary general of World Kashmir Awareness Forum, said: “I vividly remember him [Geelani] whispering in my ear during a hug in 1965 at a bus stand in Sopore: ‘We badly need the youth.’ I was 18 then. I’m sure thousands of youths heard that whisper. This is the message that I would like to share with my beloved Kashmiri youth everywhere. Geelani’s strength, perseverance, and unwavering hope for a brighter future lives on in all of us.”
CALL FOR PROBE:
“Syed Ali Geelani was a public figure, a man of the people who had dedicated all his life for the cause of Kashmir. The circumstances leading to his death and then the forceful burial have raised serious concerns,” said Shehryar Khan Afridi, the chairman of the parliamentary committee on Kashmir.
“We fear if Geelani’s killing is not probed, other Kashmiris incarcerated by India may also be killed in custody,” he said, urging the UN Human Rights Council and other rights organisations to hold an impartial inquiry into what he called a “custodial killing.”
He claimed this was the “second high profile custodial killing” after Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chairman Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, who died in custody earlier this year.