Senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, 92, was laid to rest in a pre-dawn quiet burial monitored by police in Srinagar’s Hyderpora area. Barricades were set up and mobile telephony snapped across the Valley to keep his supporters at bay.
Geelani died around 10.30 p.m. on Wednesday and was buried 4.00 a.m. Thursday. Only close family members and neighbours were allowed to attend the last rites at his home.
Curfew-like restrictions were imposed in and around Srinagar, especially the roads leading to Geelani’s residence. Media was also barred from filming or shooting the burial.
Geelani had reportedly wished to be buried at Srinagar’s martyrs graveyard in the old city, where many other separatist leaders, protesters and militants were buried. However, the police denied the family permission to bury him in the old city.
Request turned down
One of the family members told The Hindu that the police arrived at the house immediately after his death and the family’s request to bury him around 10 a.m. on Thursday was turned down.
“Many relatives could not see his face one last time. The body of Geelani sahib was taken away from the family around 3:00 a.m. against their wishes and buried in a haste. Women protested against the police move. None of the family members was present when Geelani was lowered in the grave located near Hyderpora's Jamia Masjid,” the family member said.
However, the police refuted the family's allegations. “The police facilitated in moving the body from home to the graveyard as there were apprehensions that miscreants might take undue advantage of the situation. Relatives participated in the last rites,” Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar said.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a body of Muslim countries, has condemned the Indian government for “denying the right to choose burial rites and site for Geelani, an iconic Kashmiri leader”.
An OIC statement said, “Also condemnable are the Indian government’s actions to impose communication blockade by snapping the Internet, imposition of curfew/restrictive lockdown limiting freedom of movement and assembly of Kashmiris to deny them to peacefully mourn and bid farewell to their beloved leader”.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in a speech in Islamabad, said he was saddened by how the Indian forces had encircled Geelani’s house after his death and treated his family. “They forced the family to bury him without a proper funeral. Everybody knows that there would have been a huge, huge namaz-i-janaza [funeral] for him, and the Indian forces were too scared to even allow that,” he was quoted as saying by Pakistan-based newspaper The Dawn .
The situation remained tense but peaceful in the Kashmir valley.
Director General of Police Dilbag Singh said, “No untoward incident was reported from anywhere. The situation is being reviewed and watched closely”.
There were reports of incidents of youth thronging mosques to announce the death of Geelani. The restrictions imposed by the security forces kept most of his supporters away. Dozens of barricades were set up on the highway connecting Srinagar and Geelani’s birthplace Sopore in Baramulla.
Omar, Mehbooba’s condolences
Top mainstream political leaders, including National Conference’s Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party’s Mehbooba Mufti, conveyed their condolences to Geelani’s family.
Geelani, a former member of the Jamaat-e-Islami and ex-Hurriyat president, was a proponent of accession of J&K with Pakistan. Facing multiple ailments, he was unwell for many months now. He is survived by sons Naeem Geelani and Naseem Geelani.