Syed Ali Shah Geelani: The epitome of resistance

Today, September 1st, marks the first martyrdom anniversary of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the man who spearheaded the Kashmir freedom movement. This emblem of strength was born on September 29th, 1929 in the Baramulla district of Kashmir. He stepped into the political arena by joining Jamaat-e-Islami in 1952. Syed Ali Geelani rose to the great heights of popularity because of his unflinching commitment against the illegal Indian occupation in Kashmir and earned the position of district chief of Kupwara and Baramulla districts. He was also elected as the member of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in 1972, 1977 and 1987 which gave him an opportunity to repeatedly bring forward the Kashmir issue. Before provincial assembly elections, Muslim United Front (MUF) was formed in 1987 against the pro-Indian political parties. However, owing to severe rigging in elections, only four candidates, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, managed to win seats and he was put behind bars afterwards by the New Delhi government. This was the turning point for the Kashmiri freedom movement as an indigenous armed struggle against Indian illegal occupation started. In 1992, he laid the foundation of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) to raise the issue of Kashmir. This platform consisted of thirty parties supporting the liberation of Indian illegal occupied Jammu & Kashmir. In August 2004, he formed his own political party, “Tehreek e Hurriyat.” In 2009, he launched the “demilitarisation movement.” In 2010, the barbaric fake encounter of three civilians in the area of Kupwara at the hands of the Indian army triggered the public unrest. In 2016, when Indian security forces martyred the young Hurriyat activist, Burhan Waani, Syed Ali Geelani along with Mir Waiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yaseen started protests against Indian barbarism. After the Modi led fascist regime revoked Article 370 and 35- A, he was detained till his demise in his house. Syed Ali Shah Geelani had always been an ardent supporter of Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan. He uttered the historic words “We are Pakistanis and Pakistan is ours” while addressing his supporters, once. His inclination towards Pakistan made him a thorn in India’s side and he had to face frequent incarcerations. However, he stood firm in the face of all the difficulties and never compromised on his cause and beliefs. He spent his whole life fighting against Indian atrocities against the innocent Kashmiris. His extraordinary oratory skills in Urdu and Kashmiri made him popular among the Kashmiri youth. He was called “Bub” (the father) by the Kashmiri people. He authored almost 30 books including his autobiography to apprise the people about Indian atrocities faced by the Kashmiris for their genuine struggle for freedom. Syed Ali Geelani always turned down the idea of having talks with the Indian government until it “gives Kashmir the status of a disputed territory.” He also categorically rejected the Public Safety Act and challenged the then Chief Minister, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, for imposing a new draconian law which gave Indian Security Forces a license to pick up, torture and detain innocent Kashmiri people. The main objective of this act was to silence dissent voices and suppress the internationally recognized genuine struggle of the Kashmiri people for their freedom from the Indian subjugation. The lifelong struggle against the Indian tyranny followed by the imprisonment, physical and mental torture took a toll on his physical health and the man who always roared like a lion breathed his last at 91 under house arrest. He expressed will to be buried in Srinagar. However, the Indian government was so petrified of his supporters that they snatched his body from his family and buried him in the night without performing Islamic rituals nor allowing anyone from his family to see his last glimpse. This was a sheer violation of human rights which was widely condemned by Pakistan, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and human rights organisations. The Indian government, however, shamelessly defended their act by referring to it as a necessary step to maintain law and order situation in the valley. To honour his struggles for Kashmiris’ right for self-determination, Syed Ali Shah Geelani was awarded with the highest civil award ‘Nishan-e-Pakistan’ by the Pakistani government on the country’s Independence Day in 2020. Syed Ali Geelani will always be remembered as the torch-bearer of Kashmir freedom movement. The seeds of resistance that this icon of defiance sowed into the hearts of three generations against the Indian illegal rule of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir will surely bear the fruit in the form of Kashmiris’ liberation one day. –The writer is a contributing columnist based in Islamabad

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