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Profile: Syed Ali Gilani – the icon of Kashmir freedom movement

Early life

Syed Ali Gilani was born in Zainageer area of Sopore town in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district on 29 September 1929. He was educated at Sopore, and finished his studies at the Oriental College, Lahore.

Political activism

Syed Ali Gilani has been viewed as a key Hurriyat leader in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir. He remained associated with the Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir for most part of his life but later founded his own party by the name of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Jammu and Kashmir Tehreek-e-Hurriyat. He led the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) until late quitting the pro-freedom amalgam due to his worsening health condition. He was elected to the Kashmir Legislative Assembly in 1972, 1977 and 1987.

Health issues, passport suspension and house arrest

Syed Ali Gilani’s passport was seized in 1981 due to accusations of “anti-India” activities. With the exception of his Hajj pilgrimage in 2006, he has not been allowed to go abroad.[ He was diagnosed with renal cancer, and advised treatment from abroad in the same year. On the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention, the authorities returned Syed Ali Gilani’s passport to his son. In 2007, his condition worsened, although in the early stages of the cancer, it was life-threatening and surgery was advised. He was set to travel to either the UK or the US. However, his visa request was rejected by the American government and he went to Mumbai for surgery.

On 6 March 2014, Syed Ali Gilani fell ill with a severe chest infection, shortly after returning to his home in Srinagar. He had been under house arrest since 2010. In May 2015, He applied for passport to visit his daughter in Saudi Arabia. The Indian government withheld it citing technical reasons, including the fact that he deliberately failed to fill in the nationality column required in the application.

The continued house arrest for the last over a decade took heavy toll on his health and he developed many medical complications.


Syed Ali Gilani spent many years in different Indian jails for opposing Indian rule in the occupied territory. He endured physical and mental torture during his imprisonment. He was kept under continued house arrest since 2010 till his death.

Sedition charge

On 29 November 2010, Syed Ali Gilani, along with noted Indian writer Arundhati Roy, activist Varavara Rao and three others, was charged under sedition charges by the Indian government for their speeches at a seminar in New Delhi. The charges carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

FEMA case

After the 2019 Pulwama incident, India took stronger action against pro-Pakistan Hurriyat leaders including Syed Ali Gilani. India’s Enforcement Directorate levied a penalty of Rs 14.40 lakh and ordered confiscation of nearly Rs 6.8 lakh in connection with a Foreign Exchange Management Act case against him.

Kashmir dispute

Syed Ali Gilani considered Jammu and Kashmir a disputed territory between Pakistan and India and wanted its settlement in accordance with the Kashmiris’ aspirations.

He was a staunch opponent of Indian illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir. He remained passionate advocate of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan all along his life. The slogan ‘Hum Pakistani Hain, Pakistan Hamara Ha’ was coined by Syed Ali Gilani.


President Dr Arif Alvi had last year conferred Nishan-i-Pakistan, the country’s highest civil award, on Syed Ali Gilani in recognition of his decades-old struggle for Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.


Syed Ali Gilani developed breathing complications and passed away on 01 September 2021 at approximately 10:30 p.m at his Hyderpora residence in Srinagar due to his prolonged illness.


Some of his works include

Rūdād-i qafas, 1993. Author’s memoirs of his imprisonment.

Navā-yi Hurriyat, 1994. Collection of letters, columns and interviews on Kashmir issue.

Dīd-o-shunīd, 2005. Compilation based on answers to the various questions relating to Kashmir issue.

Bhārat ke istiʻmārī ḥarbe!: Kurālah Gunḍ se Jodhpūr tak!, 2006. Autobiographical reminiscences with special reference to his struggle for the liberation of Kashmir.

Sadā-e-dard: majmuvʻah taqārīr, 2006. Collection of speeches on Kashmir issue.

Millat-i-maz̤lūm, 2006. Collection of articles and columns on various issues of Jammu and Kashmir.

Safar-i-Maḥmūd z̲ikr-i-maẓlūm, 2007. Compilation based on answers to the various questions relating to Kashmir issue.

Maqtal se vāpsī: Rānchi jail ke shab-o-roz, 2008. Autobiographical reminiscences.

Iqbāl rūḥ-i-dīn kā shanāsā, 2009. Study on the works of Allama Muhammad Iqbal.

ʻĪdain, 2011. Collection of sermons delivered on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha, and Friday prayers.

Vullar kināre : āp bītī, 2012. Autobiography.

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