Born in a Bandipora village and brought up in Sopore of Indian Illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), Shaheed Syed Ali Gilani completed his higher education from Oriental College Lahore, with a focus on various languages.
He later on authored at least 34 books. His significant works include translation into Urdu and commentary on Allama Iqbal’s Persian.
The lifetime chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and former head of Jamaat-e-Islami and Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, Gilani was illegally detained in his Hyderpora House for 11 years in October 2010.
He suffered different ailments including kidney problem, heart ailment and bronchitis; one of his kidneys and gallbladder were removed.
The top pro-freedom leader was a beacon of freedom for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and a staunch opponent of Kashmir’s union with India.
A staunch pro-Pakistani leader, he did not believe in the idea of an independent Kashmir, although according to him independence is preferable over “Indian imperialism”.
A prominent ideologue of the idea of Pakistan, Gilani vouched for an Islamic welfare state and believed Kashmir should be part of Pakistan.
Gilani was first detained in 1962 and India detained him for his stance on right to self-determination for over 20 years.
Though Gilani himself led a peaceful and political movement for plebiscite as granted by the United Nations, he, however, equally praised armed freedom fighters who were fighting with the Indian occupational forces.
He also led the funeral in absentia of Shaheed Afzal Guru, who was hanged by the Indian government in Tihar jail in 2013 in Eidgah Srinagar. When other Hurriyat leaders softened their approach towards Delhi, Gilani remained firm on his stance. Later, APHC broke into two factions due to policy issues.
In 2004, after an agreement with Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir, Shaheed Gilani and Shaheed Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai formed Tehreek-e Hurriyat which demanded that Kashmir must be recognized as a disputed territory, and the dispute must be resolved through holding plebiscite according to the resolutions passed by the United Nations.
All and sundry, Indians and Pakistanis, and those who engaged in Kashmir from western world, considered Shaheed Gilani as ‘honest’, ‘committed’ who never compromised on his stance on freedom from India.
Kashmiris, across ideological and religious divides, see Shaheed Gilani as an unparalleled icon of their resistance to illegal Indian rule. A scholar of highest regard across South Asia who toiled hard to make Muslims in the region understand the importance of a Muslim land called Pakistan, Gilani survived 12 assassination attempts since early 1990s.
A staunch supporter of the two-nation theory, who believed in the complete merger of the Jammu and Kashmir state with Pakistan, Gilani was often offered big benefits in return to change his stance on Kashmir. He unequivocally rejected any such offer. While he was being persecuted for being a pro-Pakistan voice by India, Shaheed Gilani sometimes also criticized policies of Pakistan on Kashmir.
For many young Kashmiri people, Gilani was compared to Omar Mukhtar, the Libyan freedom fighter who fought Italian occupiers but never compromised.
A symbol of the Kashmiri freedom movement, Syed Ali Gilani attained martyrdom, under illegal house detention, on September 01, 2021 in IIOJK.
Indian forces raided his home, beat up his family, relatives and neighbors and dragged his body out of his home and forcibly buried him in a local graveyard against his wishes. He was 91. God bless Gilani’s soul as his legend lives eternally.