Syed Ali Shah Geelani
|Syed Ali Shah Geelani
سید علی شاہ گیلانی
|All Parties Hurriyat Conference(G)|
29 September 1929 |
Zoorimunz, Bandipora, Jammu and Kashmir
Syed Ali Shah Geelani (Urdu: سید علی شاہ گیلانی; born 29 September 1929) is a separatist leader from Jammu and Kashmir. He was previously a member of Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir but later on founded his own party by the name of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat. He has served as the chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a conglomerate of separatist parties in Jammu and Kashmir. He is an Ex MLA from the Sopore constituency of Jammu and Kashmir.
Geelani has been viewed as a key leader in Kashmir. In October 2013 he was reelected to a fourth three-year term as chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G), a faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, which split up in 2003. As "the constitution of the amalgam allows a person to head it from constituent parties only," he founded the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat party, to which he was separately reelected as chairman for a three-year term in September 2013. In response to a report that Geelani had designated his son to succeed him in leadership of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, Hurriyat (G) responded that his son was not even eligible for office and "Tehreek-e-Hurriyat is an ideological and structured organization which doesn't only reject the successor theory but it terms this type of nominations as an undemocratic and unprincipled acts" and that the group was considering legal action against the reporter and newspaper.
Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, has blamed Geelani for the rise in militancy and bloodshed in Kashmir, while Omar's father and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah has urged Geelani to follow a path which would "save Kashmiri people from further destruction". However, the Times of India suggested that if his deteriorating health allowed others to control Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, they would most likely be more hard-line elements.
Geelani has called for general strikes or shutdowns, such as in response to the deaths of unnamed suspected militants in Lolab Valley on February 28, and on March 16 in response to the shooting of Farhat Ahmad Dar in Niadkhai village, Bandipora.
In a June 2013 statement, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat said that India and Pakistan should engage in trilateral talks with leaders of Jammu and Kashmir rather than only bilateral negotiations. Their statement said that "Jammu and Kashmir neither remained a part of India nor is now a part of India" and "was handed over to India through deceitful politics." It spoke of seeking a solution through "peaceful and meaningful means", while denouncing India for arrogance and injustice. The group's executive council
- "unanimously declared that India is subjugating the genuine voice through its arrogance, abjuration, military power and plays foxy politics and added that Delhi with its multi dimential methods has unleashed a reign of terror and under the agenda of cultural aggression sponsor and patronize waywardness, nudity and promotes drug intoxication among youth. They in order to overpower the sentiments of youth brought over changes in the education system. The mass killing and rehabilitation of outsiders in the state is their game plane and agencies are hell-bent to change the demography of the state. Lakh’s of labours, artisans, nomads and beggars are being pushed in state in a calculated manner and with the result has deteriorated the social fabric and economy of the state."
In its statement the group also took a position that Amarnath yatra should be permitted but was politicized and called for it to be "managed on Utrakhand pattern" with a maximum number of yatris, limited to a 15-day duration, saying that the increasing number of yatris and extension of the specified period by two months was "terrorizing the people of Jammu and Kashmir." It blamed Indian security forces for deforestation and occupation of agricultural land, a total area of 28 lac Kanals (350,000 acres). (Geelani was previously involved with these issues in the Amarnath land transfer controversy of 2008) With Tehreek E Hurriyat "being a political organization with clear and unambiguous stand do not believe in oppressive or repressive measures, instead its manifesto clearly depicts in illustrious manner its approach and way of functioning", the statement denounced the detention of Geelani and asked people to show support and follow Islamic teachings with a sincere heart.
In February 2014 he said prisoners in Kashmir "are the victims of custodial violence and are harassed in Indian Jails especially in Tihar Jail" after an incident where parents of Javaid Ahmad Khan, serving a life sentence, "had traveled thousands of kilometers and invested a lot of money to reach Delhi for meting their jailed son but oppressors denied them a meeting with him. This is state terrorism", he said.
In November 2011, Geelani called for peaceful protests against the alleged "objectionable anti-Islamic" content on the social networking website Facebook, which he described as a "satanic audacity". His call triggered protests in various parts of the Kashmir valley, leading to minor clashes between the protestors and the security forces. Geelani recently figured in the news when he condemned the killing of Osama Bin Laden by the US.
On November 29, 2010 Geelani, along with writer Arundhati Roy, Maoist Varavara Rao and three others, was charged under "sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity between classes), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 504 (insult intended to provoke breach of peace) and 505 (false statement, rumour circulated with intent to cause mutiny or offence against public peace... to be read with Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967" The charges, which carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, were the result of a seminar they gave in New Delhi titled "Azadi-the Only Way" on October 21, at which Geelani was heckled. The Union Home Ministry had previously decided not to file charges based on legal opinion, and home minister P Chidambaram said filing such charges was not in keeping with "the letter and spirit of the law". According to the Times of India, the judge ordering the case, Navita Kumari, ignored the 1962 precedent of Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar, which determined only speech that had incited violence could be charged as sedition in accordance with the free speech guarantee of the Constitution. The colonial-era law, once used against Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, has since been used to charge cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, civil rights advocate Binayak Sen, and even Kashmiri students for cheering a Pakistani cricket team. Police failed to submit a chargesheet within a required 90-day period after the date of registration of FIR, leading a court to advance the date of hearing to April 19, 2011. After a year and a half, the case was given to Crime Branch of Delhi Police on orders from police headquarters.
Geelani has been diagnosed with renal cancer, and has been recommended by doctors to go overseas for treatment. After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh intervened, Indian government agencies returned Geelani's passport to his son. His passport was seized in 1981 due to accusations of "anti-India" activities, and with the exception of his Hajj pilgrimage in 2006, he has not been allowed to leave India.
In 2007, Geelani had half of his only kidney removed due to the malignancy. Although the cancer was in its early stages, it was life-threatening, and he needed to have surgery. Following the advice of his doctors at Apollo Hospital, Geelani was set to travel to either the UK or the United States for specialized treatment. However his request for a visa was turned down by the Americans, and as his health deteriorated he went to Mumbai for surgery. The reason given by the US for turning down Geelani's request for a visa was, that he has criticized U.S policy of war in Iraq. This decision was alleged to be a violation of human rights by his supporters and family, but the US decision received gratuitous support from other corners.
On March 6, 2014, Geelani fell ill with a severe chest infection, shortly after returning to his home in Srinagar from a stay in New Delhi for a previous medical treatment. Viewed as a major advocate of the secession of Kashmir and its union with Pakistan, he has been under house arrest for most of the time since 2010, and was put under house arrest again on his return. Shabir Ahmad Shah blamed the ongoing house arrest for his deteriorating condition. However, the police deployments were removed outside his home by March 8 as medical personnel and leaders from rival separatist organizations came to visit the ailing Geelani.
Geelani was offered a flight to return to New Delhi in a government helicopter on March 12, but chose to take a routine flight March 12 instead on the basis that he could not accept a benefit from a government "working to strengthen the occupation", according to Ayaz Akbar, who said, “We believe government wants to gain political mileage out of Geelani's illness as seen in the past. When he was in Ranchi prison, the then chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed helped Geelani to shift him to Mumbai hospital where he was treated for kidney cancer. Till date, Mufti beats the drum that he helped Geelani. Keeping this in view, we rejected the government offer of using a chopper.”
On March 12, 2014, rumors of Geelani's death, spread by edits to his Wikipedia entry, "a particular Hindi news channel", and pages on Facebook led the government of Kashmir to suspend internet and phone service, according to some sources. However, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that the failures had nothing to do with Geelani's health and were due to a snapped power line as well as an optical fibre cut due to heavy snowfall, which left most of the valley without power. The cuts in Internet service, hours after a statement by Hurriyat that Geelani would be flown to New Delhi for medical treatment, were blamed for spreading the rumours. A spokesman for Geelani said that he was recovering, while Hurriyat G spokesman Ayaz Akbar said that “We will take legal course of action against a particular Hindi news channel which reported false news against our leader,” and that those posting the rumors on Facebook and Wikipedia would be exposed.
On March 13 Geelani departed as scores of supporters shouted "long live Geelani" and "We want freedom" as he departed for treatment in New Delhi's satellite city of Gurgaon. After a "thorough pulmonary check-up", doctors decided not to admit him to the hospital, clearing him to stay with relatives in Malviya Nagar pending evaluation of test results.
In Srinagar on March 14, a crowd offered special prayers for Geelani amid what is described as a "routine pro-freedom protest" following Friday mosque services (described by Kashmir Inspector General of police Abdul Gani Mir as a "demonstration for no particular reason"), and marched toward an Indian Reserve Police camp. After several hours of protests, in which stones were thrown, a one-ton vehicle carrying members of the police suffered a mechanical failure as it approached the crowd, and according to police, some of them attempted to set it on fire. The police opened fire, by their description into the air, but according to witnesses directly into the crowd, killing Farhat Ahmad Dar son of Ghulam Muhammad of Shahgund, Sonawari, and injuring eight others, two of whom were hospitalized. The incident was feared to escalate tensions in advance of May 7 elections, for which hard-line separatists have urged a boycott.
Role in electoral politics
Participation in Kashmiri elections conducted by the Indian government has been the subject of controversy since 1946, when Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, founder of the National Conference, called for boycott of the rajya Sabha elections held by Maharaja Hari Singh. The boycott ended in 1975 after a political accord with Indira Gandhi, but calls for boycott resumed with calls for militant separatism in Kashmir in 1989. The effectiveness of the boycotts decreased over time. Overall turnout increased to 62% in 2008, in part due to the Amarnath land controversy, with the lower turnout numbers in urban areas.
In 2014 Geelani and Hurriyat(G) called for the electoral boycott, with general secretary Ghulam Nabi Sumji issuing a statement that "The role of National Conference, Congress, PDP and BJP is dangerous and harmful for the Kashmir cause and all of them are using Kashmir cause as an election card." Geelani said Kashmiris would not accept the proposals for self-rule or autonomy that had been offered by the People's Democratic Party and the ruling National Conference. Dozens of members of Geelani's group and others promoting the boycott were subsequently arrested. Geelani mocked the police chief conducting the arrests, saying they violated a promise he had previously made, and that the New Delhi authorities decided who would be arrested and when.
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