In remembrance of the iconic leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, famously known as the “Baba-e-Hurriyat”, the people in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and the world over are observing the first martyrdom anniversary of the nonagenarian leader with the renewal of the pledge that the candle of resistance for freedom that he lit won’t be allowed to extinguish no matter how violent and strong the winds of Indian oppression and the changing geo-political situations come into effect.
If we refer to it as his martyrdom day, it won’t sound unfair as he died while being incarcerated at his home in Srinagar for 11 long years, during which his health continued to deteriorate and eventually led to his death on September 1st last year.
On September 29, 1929, Syed Ali Shah Geelani was born in in Zurmanz village in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district. He graduated from Oriental College in Lahore after completing his primary education in Sopore.
He was a man of vision and conviction and a torch bearer of resistance who dedicated to guide his people through thick and thin. He was elected as a member of the Occupied J&K Assembly in 1972, 1977 and 1987 respectively, where he raised his voice for the political resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio on the basis of the right of self-determination guaranteed by UN resolutions. The Indian government, through all its colonial tactics, tried to bend him and the other Hurriyat leadership and compel them to withdraw their genuine demand for the inalienable right to self-determination but it failed in doing so.
He spent most of his life while being subjected to every form of political vendetta, including imprisonment, restrictions, concocted charges, and media trials by successive Indian governments over the years, but none of these tactics were able to sway this tenacious mountain’s spirit or morale.
He was adamant and unyielding in his opposition to the brutal Indian occupation, but he was also a model of sacrifice and peace, constantly arguing for the full respect and protection of all Kashmiri society’s members, including Sikhs, Hindus, and other minorities, as well as their right to practise their religion freely. Every time Indian authorities attempted to rip apart the social and religious fabric of the occupied territory to use it as a weapon against the freedom movement, he was there with that firewall persona.
Along with his relentless efforts on the political and religious fronts to increase the religio-political understanding of the oppressed people, he also authored at least 22 books to further their intellectual development and political awakening. There are several of them, including Rudad-i-Qafs, Qisa-e-Dard, Sada-e-Dard, Maqtal se Wapsi, Ruh-e-Din-e-ka Shanasa I and II, Payam-e-Akhiri, Nawa-e- Hurriyat, Bharat ke Istemari Harbay, Eidain, Safar-e-Mahmoud Mein Zikr the Payam-e-Aakhrin, Aik Pehlu Ye Bhi Hai Kashmir Ki Tasveer Ka and Iqbal Apnay Paigam Ki Roshni Ma. Some of his well-known works include Hijrat Aor Shahadat, Tehreek-e Hurriyet Ke Teen Ahdaaf, Mairaj Ka Paigam, Nawjawanan-e Millat Ke Naam, Dastoor-e Tehreek-e Hurriyet, and Wulur Ke Kinaray I and II.
Syed Ali Geelani was an undeclared spearhead of the armed resistance movement that started in 1989 when Kashmiris appeared to have failed to accomplish their aim despite participating in Indian politics for 45 years. He described it as a desperate but legitimate response by the Kashmiri youth. In every nook and corner of the seized region, he could be seen sympathising with the families who had lost loved ones to Indian brutality.This exemplified Syed Ali Geelani’s genuine leadership qualities. He spoke with the authority and thorough veracity of a great leader. He was a staunch believer that Kashmiris would ultimately win freedom from Indian bondage.
Syed Ali Geelani believed that if any nation in the world is unable to provide the practical and necessary support for the Kashmiris in their fight for self-determination for a variety of geopolitical, strategic, and economic reasons, the public resistance should be made so strong and effective that on the one hand India won’t be allowed to capitalise on it and on the other hand the world conscience be continually pricked to make it realise that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed area and Kashmiris will never accept Indian occupation of their homeland.
This is why he always seemed to be there at the forefront while calling for protests, rallies, strikes, demonstrations, and sit-ins, so that countries and organisations around the world, including the United Nations Security Council, could be convinced that the resolution of the Kashmir issue is inevitable and the Kashmiri people are desperately waiting for them to keep their promise for the grant of a free, fair, and impartial right to self-determination to decide their political future.
He was well aware of the sensitivity regarding the Kashmir issue, and he had predicted long before that India, having failed to subdue Kashmiris, would resort to the sinister plan of changing the demographic composition of the territory.
He exhibited the best traits of a real leader by maintaining his principled position despite being subjected to every aspect of political vengeance.
Except for the Hajj in 2006, he was never permitted to leave India after the Indian government seized his passport in 1981. He was given a kidney cancer diagnosis that year, but despite his doctor’s stern advice, he was still prohibited from travelling abroad.
Syed Ali Geelani spent several years in various jails for opposing the illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir by India and demanding freedom, enduring physical and mental torture during his imprisonment. During a brief period of release from custody, he spoke at a seminar in Delhi on November 29, 2010 at the invitation of renowned human rights activist Arundhati Roy, at which he addressed a group of Indian intellectuals, journalists, human rights activists, and politicians. The Indian government subsequently accused him and three other people of treason for outlining the sensitive nature of the K-issue, the harsh reality of Kashmir, and the horrendous crimes against humanity carried out by Indian troops in IIOJK.
He spent most of his life associated with Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu Kashmir. But in view of some unavoidable reasons, he founded his own organisation ‘ Tehreek Hurriyat Jammu Kashmir’.
Up until the end of June 2020, he served as the All-Party Hurriyat Conference’s chairman. But due to his deteriorating health in continuous detention and the lack of treatment facilities, he couldn’t continue to lead the forum.
In 2015, the Modi government declared his residence at Hyderpora in Srinagar as a sub-jail and imposed complete restrictions on his freedom of movement, speech and expression, which remained in effect until his death.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, throughout his life, was an ardent supporter of Pakistan. He used to call the state of Jammu and Kashmir a natural part of Pakistan and the Kashmir issue a result of the unfinished agenda of the partition of the Subcontinent. He kept saying that on the basis of Islam, geography, culture and all other natural tendencies, we are Pakistanis and Pakistan is ours.
On August 14th, 2020,Pakistan conferred the Nishan-e-Pakistan Award upon Syed Ali Shah Geelani for his long and unflinching role in the freedom movement against India and unwavering love for Pakistan. The prestigious award was received by Hurriyat leaders at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on behalf of the iconic leader.
Ali Geelani remained deeply concerned about the deplorable state of the Muslim Ummah. He used to sob in solidarity with Muslims everywhere they were being persecuted. He wrote countless letters to world leaders, heads of states, institutions and personalities regarding the Kashmir issue.
A courageous leader, a motivational speaker, a mentor and a true Muslim, Syed Ali Geelani, a living example for us all, passed away on September 1, 2021 at the age of 92 after 11 years of continuous detention at his home in Hyderpora, Srinagar, leaving thousands of people throughout the world in tremendous sorrow.
As soon as word of his passing spread, announcements were broadcast over the Masajids’ loudspeakers asking people to leave their houses and pay their respects to the great leader. However, the occupation authorities deployed tens of thousands of their military and paramilitary personnel, imposed the strictest blockade and snapped internet and mobile phone services to prevent people from marching towards Hyderpora.
As the dead body of S.A. Geelani was wrapped in the Pakistani flag and his family members started chanting his famous slogans, e.g., ‘We want freedom’, ‘We are Pakistanis and Pakistan is ours’, a heavy contingent of Indian forces personnel broke into the house, harrased and tortured the inmates, and then forcibly took away the dead body. During the resistance, Syed Ali Geelani’s son, Dr. Naeem, and his wife were injured by forces’ brutality.
while the whole curfew-stricken area was under the darkness, the occupation forces’ personnel buried the dead body in a nearby graveyard, disrespected the will of a great leader, who, according to his family, had a wish to be buried in the martyrs’ cemetery at Eidgah in Srinagar. Even family members were prohibited from attending the funeral of the esteemed leader. People defying restrictions took to the streets in large numbers in many areas of Srinagar, resulting in fierce clashes between Kashmiri youth and Indian forces. Hadn’t they forced people at gunpoint to stay indoors , it would have been the biggest funeral in the history of Jammu and Kashmir.
Curfew and other restrictions imposed by the occupation authorities persisted for several days afterward in an effort to stop people from marching in response to the APHC call for prayers in absentia and tributes to be offered in lieu of their beloved leader.
The battle of Syed Ali Geelani will go down in history as a major example of resistance. His lifelong and unwavering struggle to free his oppressed homeland will continue to serve as an example for the oppressed people in the future. His adage, “No matter how much falsehood and how much oppressors are strong, scot-free and calling shots, they ultimately are doomed to be defeated because the dominance is only for the righteousness,” is still heard today in every nook and cranny of Kashmir.
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