Hurriyat Conference patriarch Syed Ali Shah Geelani died late Wednesday night at his house in Srinagar’s Hyderpora locality, leaving behind a split legacy of secessionism that he had nurtured for decades as the foremost pro-Pakistan voice in Jammu and Kashmir. He was 92; he had been unwell for months. He was rumoured to have died once in December 2020 and then in May this year.
IGP (Kashmir range) Vijay Kumar said that internet services had been suspended across the valley as part of a series of precautionary curbs. Police have detained some senior members of Hurriyat and arrested senior Hurriyat leader Mukhtar Ahmed Waza from his house in southern Kashmir’s Anantnag.
“Saddened by the news of Geelani sahab’s passing away. We may not have agreed on most things but I respect him for his steadfastness & standing by his beliefs. May Allah Ta’aala grant him jannat & condolences to his family & well wishers,” former Chief Minister and People’s Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti has tweeted.
Referring to Geelani predictably as a “Kashmiri freedom fighter”, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced, “The Pakistan flag will fly at half-mast and we will observe a day of official mourning.”
However, highly placed and reliable sources in the union government told Sirf News Geelani was a spy who sounded the most belligerent of all Hurriyat activists to earn the trust of all Kashmiri separatists as well as Pakistan. Geelani would hold secret meetings in Delhi during some of his visits to the national capital — as well as other places — with the state’s interlocutors to find a solution to the impasse in the valley until his services were not of much use to India when the Narendra Modi government turned the divisive and controversial Article 370 dysfunctional via Parliament.
The news of Geelani’s death comes soon after speculation of an imminent ban on both factions of the Hurriyat. This had led him to remove a signboard of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat hurriedly from the annexe of his family home. It seemed to mark the passing of the Hurriyat mantle to the other faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who remained defiant amid rumours of a ban.
The body of Geelani will be taken to his ancestral village in Sopore for burial, family sources said.