Article: Remembering Syed Ali Geelani

By Mehr Ispahani

Syed Ali Shah Geelani as the father of the Kashmiri jihad was a member of Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir between 1953 and 2004, and regarded as one of its top leaders. Geelani became active in the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference.

He was appointed the secretary of the party unit in Zurimanz. In 1946, during the Quit Kashmir movement of the National Conference, he came in contact with Maulana Sayeed Masoodi, the general secretary of the National Conference, who took a liking to him and made him a reporter to the party newspaper Akhbar-i-Khidmat.

Masoodi also sponsored further studies for Geelani, who completed an adib-i-fazil course in Urdu and other courses in Persian and English. After this, he took a job as a school teacher, first at Pathar Masjid and later at Rainawari in Srinagar.

Here he came in contact with SaaduddinTarabali, a follower of the Jamaat-e-Islami founder Maulana AbulA’laMaududi. Maududi advocated a hardline Islamist ideology, whereby Islam had to be the foundation of the entire political order.

Geelani had borrowed a book of Maududi from the local book store, which made a deep impression upon him. He was to later say, Maududi had “beautifully. expressed the feelings that lay deep down in my own heart”. The National Conference headquarters, Mujahid Manzil, where Geelani apparently stayed, soon began to be seen as “a den of Pakistanis”

Geelani was a farsighted leader. He never compromised on the demand for self-determination.

He understood that India wants to change the demography of the disputed state. He also realised that India’s draconian laws, meant for nabbing timber mafia, would be applied to freedom lovers to stifle their voice. He vehemently opposed these laws particularly the Public Safety Act.His house remained heavily barricaded until his death. He was denied access to the internet and other communication facilities.

His opposition to engaging with New Delhi was at odds with other factions of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella group of organizations seeking self-determination for Kashmir. India, he argued, pursued negotiations on the ground that Kashmir was an integral part of that country, a position he rejected.

The arrests and jailings continued after he joined an Islamist organization, Jamaat-e-Islami, and was elected to the State Assembly in 1972. The Indian authorities seized his passport in 1981 and never returned it, though they let him travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia in 2006 for the Muslim hajj pilgrimage. He began calling for public protests against Indian control in the 1980s, finding a receptive audience among Kashmiris.

After violence broke out in 1989 — the beginning of more than 30 years of conflict — Mr. Geelani became perhaps the movement’s most visible leader. His calls for workers to strike could shut down activity in the Kashmir valley for days. He was a fixture at the funerals of those who died fighting Indian forces.

There is no denying the fact that Kashmiris have lost a great leader in the form of Gilani. He, on the basis of his vision and foresight guided Kashmiris towards a path that heads towards a certain promising future i.e. freedom from Indian subjugation.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s unflinching commitment to the Kashmir cause, in the face of persistent persecution and tremendous personal hardship, is unparalleled. He inspired three generations of Kashmiris in resisting the illegal Indian occupation and unabated tyranny. When he died, Indian forces whisked away his dead body and buried it at a deserted place. That’s why Kashmiris regard his death as a custodial killing. He was the most recognized face of Kashmiri resistance against India and an iconic political figure,” said Noor Ahmad Baba, a political analyst in Kashmir. “No other political figure from the valley matched his popularity.

He was a true voice and hero of the Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination, who never lost his ideological moorings for a single moment. Upright and steadfast, he would never compromise on the just cause that he led throughout his life from the core of his heart. He will be remembered for his unconditional love for Kashmir and Pakistan.

“We in Pakistan salute his courageous struggle &Honor his words: “Hum Pakistani hain aur Pakistan Humarahai”.

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