an icon of the Kashmiri freedom movement
Hazaron saal nargis apni baynoori pay roti he
Barri mushkil se hota hai shaman men deedawarpaida
This verse by Iqbal matches the vision and charismatic personality of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a torchbearer of the Kashmir liberation movement. Geelani died on 1st September 2021 at the age of 92. However, a hero never dies; it remains alive and transmits its heritage to the rising generation.
Geelani has always defended the right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir and supported UN resolutions. Kashmir’s struggle for independence is as old as the partition of the subcontinent. If this struggle has never been dependent on particular personalities, Geelani has given it momentum. His unwavering approach to India’s anti-Muslim and Kashmiri policies has empowered the people of Kashmir to fight for their right to self-determination.
To achieve this goal, Geelani participated in the Jamaat-e Islami Kashmir platform elections in the 1990s. The party aimed to sweep the elections and pass a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly in favor of the right to self-determination. But the electoral manipulations gave a major setback to Geelnai and other leaders. In 1989, the uprising against Indian rule peaked in Kashmir and Geelnai and like-minded leaders founded the Hurriyet Conference, a pro-freedom organization. Geelnai had been an active member of the Conference which supported the merger of Kashmir with Pakistan and sought the implementation of UN resolutions. Throughout his life, Geelani guided the liberation movement and inspired more than one generation. His vision of India and its policy in Kashmir remained unchanged.
Due to his ideology and stance against India, Geelani went to jail several times. Since the Hindu nationalist BJP led by Modi came to power in India, harmful policies in the Muslim-majority areas of Kashmir have been rigorously followed. Kashmir has been used as a memory card by Indian political parties to sate their patriotic appetite for the Hindu nationalist country, and as a revenge card against Pakistan. India’s changes to Kashmir after the 5e August 2019 gave Kashmiris a major setback. Military crackdowns and the widespread use of detention laws have made it difficult for people to survive.
Geelani was tortured and placed under house arrest on 5e August after India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution. Revoking Article 370 rewrites the history of occupied Kashmir, demographically depopulates Muslims and encourages Hindutva settlements resembling Israeli-style colonialism. The Kashmiris are unlikely to obtain redress from India’s Supreme Court. History shows that their 75 years of struggle will persist against India’s stubbornness. India has always been afraid of rebellion in Kashmir, especially after the 2008 mass uprising and later the death of commander Burhan Wani in 2016. Millions of people attended the funeral of Wani and the Muslim-majority region stopped for six months. India feared repercussions similar to Geelani’s death. To keep people out, India imposed a security crackdown and a communications blackout. The funeral was held forcefully and in secret and to this day Geelani’s grave remains out of reach as India fears she will vent the feelings of the Kashmiri people.
Such incidents are a proof of the challenges India is facing in Kashmir. Its forced occupation remains undesirable to this day. After Geelani’s death, Kashmir liberation movements grew in the occupied region. The BJP government must release the legitimate rulers of Kashmir from prison and hold a referendum on self-determination, in accordance with UN resolutions 1514 and 2649. Geelani’s lifelong sacrifices and relentless struggle symbolize the indomitable determination of Kashmiris against Indian occupation. Its mission will continue until the Kashmiris obtain their right to self-determination.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd2022.
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