Syed Ali Shah Geelani

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Syed Ali Shah Geelani
سید علی شاہ گیلانی
All Parties Hurriyat Conference(G)
Personal details
Born (1929-09-29) 29 September 1929 (age 85)
Bandipora, Jammu and Kashmir, British India
Nationality Indian
Political party Tehreek-e-Hurriyat
Alma mater

Punjab University, Lahore, Punjab Province

Oriental College, Lahore, Punjab Province[1]

Syed Ali Shah Geelani (Urdu: سید علی شاہ گیلانی‎; born 29 September 1929)[2] 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 was an MLA from the Sopore constituency of Jammu and Kashmir three times(1972,1977,1987).[3] Masarat Alam is expected to be the successor to Geelani.[4]

Early life[edit]

Geelani born in a town in the Bandipora area of northern Kashmir on September 29, 1929, Geelani received his preliminary education at Sopore, and finished his studies at the Oriental College, Lahore (in present-day Pakistan).[1]


Here are some quotes of Syed Ali Shah Geelani which he has quoted on different occasions.[5]

  • Hurriyat would support the dialogue process on Kashmir “only if it respects sacrifices of Kashmiris and is aimed at solving Kashmir issue in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of its people.
  • Kashmir is not any border dispute between India and Pakistan which they can solve by bilateral understandings. It is the issue concerning future of 15 million people. The Hurriyat is not in principle against a dialogue process but without involvement of Kashmiri people, such a process has proved meaningless in the past. We don’t have any expectations of it being fruitful in future too.
  • Thousands of precious lives were lost during this period and this process is still continuing. India is claiming to be the biggest democracy but it doesn’t behave like a democratic nation. There is a reason for India to fulfill is moral obligation of granting right to self- determination to the people of Kashmir: it is this country that has made commitment at national as well as international levels that they will not forcibly hold this region but allow its people a chance to decide their future.
  • The dialogue process is either between India and Pakistan or New Delhi and Srinagar. We can’t expect any kind of breakthrough until Indian rulers accept the reality of Kashmir issue and address aspirations of Kashmiris.
  • India must agree Jammu and Kashmir is an international dispute. It must begin the process of demilitarization. The prime minister must commit publicly and ensure no killings and arrests take place henceforth.[6]
  • India should immediately and unconditionally release political prisoners, and withdraw cases against youth, which are pending in the courts for the past 20 years.[7]

Political activism[edit]

Geelani, in general, has taken the position that Kashmir must have the right of self-determination, but specifically advocates the position of union with Pakistan. He has been seen as close to the Pakistani government, but has not shied away from criticising that country's policies in the past. He was particularly critical of the Kargil episode, saying that while Pakistan had been supporting "the indigenous struggle of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, morally, diplomatically and politically ... this does not mean Pakistan can take a decision on our behalf"[1] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

He is viewed as sympathetic to Jamat-e-Islami.[11] His official residence was viewed as Jamat property before he donated it to the Milli Trust.[12]

Geelani, who would settle for nothing less than right to self-determination as solution of the Kashmir issue, has taken a leaf from former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's book while calling for a solution within the ambit of humanism.[13] 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".[14][15] 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.[16]

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,[17] and on March 16 in response to the shooting of Farhat Ahmad Dar in Niadkhai village, Bandipora.[18]


  • Geelani would only support a dialogue process aimed at resolving Kashmir issue in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people of the state. But he belies dialogue between India and Pakistanstarts under diplomatic compulsions, it is nothing but just a time delaying tactics. He is of the opinion that Kashmirs are not enemies of India or hold any grudge against its inhabitants. We are desirous of a strong India and Pakistan and it is only possible when Kashmir issue is resolved to pave the way for peace, prosperity and development in the region.[19]
  • Geelani calls Islamist leader and founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Abul A'la Maududi as his mentor.[20]
  • 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 Uttarakhand 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.[21]
  • 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 to meet their jailed son but oppressors denied them a meeting with him. This is state terrorism", he said.[22]
  • 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.[23] Geelani recently figured in the news when he condemned the killing of Osama Bin Laden by the US.[24]

Sedition charge[edit]

On November 29, 2010 Geelani, along with writer Arundhati Roy, Maoist Varavara Rao and three others,[25] 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.[26][27] 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.[28][29] 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.[30] After a year and a half, the case was given to Crime Branch of Delhi Police on orders from police headquarters.[31]

Personal life[edit]

Geelani lives in Malviya Nagar for 3 months during Kashmir's winter.[32] Both his elder son Nayeem Geelani and his daughter in law are renowned doctors in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. His second son, Zahoor Geelani, also lives in New Delhi. Izhaar Geelani, grandson of Geelani, is a crew member of a private airliner in India, while his daughter Farhat Geelani is a teacher in Jeddah and her husband is an engineer there.[33]

Health issues[edit]

Kidney cancer 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.[34] 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.[35]

In 2007, Geelani had half of his only kidney removed due to the malignancy.[36] 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.[37] 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 support from other corners.[38]

Chest infection On March 6, 2014, Geelani fell ill with a severe chest infection, shortly after returning to his home in Srinagar[39] 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,[40] and was put under house arrest again on his return.[41] Shabir Ahmad Shah blamed the ongoing house arrest for his deteriorating condition.[36] 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.[42][43]

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."[36][44]

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.[45][46][47] 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.[48][49][50] 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.[45][46][47]

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.[51] 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.[52]

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"),[53] 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.[54][55][56][57]

In May 2015, it was reported that Geelani had applied for a passport to enable him to visit his ailing daughter in Saudi Arabia. The Government of India delayed a decision citing technical reasons, including the fact he did not fill in the "nationality" column in his application.[58][59] Some politicians and the BJP spokesmen held that an Indian passport should not be issued to Geelani until he acknowledged his Indian nationality.[60] However, on 21 July, the Government granted him a passport on humanitarian grounds with a validity of nine months.[61]

Role in electoral politics[edit]

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.[62]

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.[62] Dozens of members of Geelani's group and others promoting the boycott were subsequently arrested.[63] 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.[64]

Criticism and Controversies[edit]

Geelani has been repeatedly cricised by Indian authorities for inciting violence in the region and working as offshoot of Pakistan.[1][65] Geelani and Yasin Malik met Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit in Delhi on August 2014 which triggered huge protest in New Delhi outside High Commission of Pakistan.[65]

Misguiding Youth[edit]

  • Geelani has been criticized by Indian authorities and local Kashmiri leaders for inciting Kashmiri youth for Jihad & stone pelting and to leave their studies for a ‘bigger cause’, while his own children and family members are getting the best education in other parts of the country and even abroad.[33]

Pays Tribute To Slain Terrorists[edit]

Geelani has stoked a controversy in Jan 2015 by paying tributes to two terrorists who were killed in an encounter in Tral area of Kashmir, in which an army commander and a policeman were killed.[66] Geelani said that "due to the rigid and stubborn approach of the Indian government, the youths are opting for gun instead of pen and this policy is costing further precious human lives in the region," according to a Hurriyat statement.[66] Reacting to the statement, Harsh Dev Singh of NPP said, "He (Geelani) has always been supporting terrorists in Kashmir valley. This is not the first time he made such a statement. People like Geelani are promoting terrorism in the country and the government should take note of such statements.".[66][67] Geelani says that Sooner or later India has to accept the "realities" regarding Kashmir.[68]

Support to Hafiz Saeed[edit]

Geelani has supported one of 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks mastermind by Lashkar-e-Taiba(LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed, Geelani expressed displeasure over Pakistan government’s decision to ban terror group Jamat-ud-Da’wah led by Hafiz Saeed and claimed that it is a charitable organization and is ‘doing a commendable humanitarian’ work in Pakistan.[69]

Prayer Meetings for Osama bin Laden[edit]

After killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 by United States Navy SEALs in Pakistan, a self-confessed bin Laden fan, Geelani said that he will lead last rite prayers in absentia in Srinagar for the slain al-Qaeda leader.[70][71] He called Laden as 'martyr' and said "Laden had entire Muslim world's pain in him, All we should also pray for the end of foreign occupation in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Kashmir."[70]

On burial of Laden in sea by United States Navy SEALs, Geelani said, "This cowardly act has no moral or legal justification. Burying the enemy according to his/her religion, and with due respect, is an accepted custom in every civilised society, but it (Osama's burial at sea) has revealed the extent of moral degradation to which a person or State can stoop under the intoxication of power."[70]

After holding prayers for Osama, an European Union delegation snubbed Geelani by cancelling a scheduled meeting with him.[72][73][74]

Support for Afzal Guru[edit]

Geelani called for statewide shutdown on 9 February 2015 in protest of 2nd anniversary of hanging of 2001 Indian Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru and demanded return of his mortal remains which are buried in Tihar Jail premises. Geelani said, "Although it is purely a human issue but New Delhi is very reluctant to this demand thereby violating all the principles of morality and constitution."[75]

Before hanging of Afzal Guru, Geelani warned that, "We feel Afzal did not receive a fair trial. He was unable to defend himself in court. If the government decides to hang him, it shall have to face public ire in Kashmir. The government will be wholly and solely responsible for the consequences".[76] However, nothing bad consequences has not been reported from Kashmir even after hanging of Afzal Guru.

Relations with Pakistani ISI[edit]

Sheikh Mustafa Kamal, a senior leader of Jammu & Kashmir National Conference and son of Sheikh Abdullah criticised Geelani for working on "dictations" given by Pakistan. He accused Geelani of being "a double agent" on "the payroll of Pakistan's ISI".[77][78][79]

Kamal said "Geelani has tried to 'ignite and incite' people by 'hollow slogans and destructive emotionalism', whenever even a Pakistani clerk comes to India and summons this ex-lawmaker(Geelani), he rushes to Delhi to take dictation about how to ensure that uncertainty prevails in the state."[77][78][79][80]

Pakistan also openly supported Geelani, the three-member delegation from Pakistan High Commission led by Abdul Basit met Geelani at his Malviya Nagar residence in March 2015, Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit assured Geelani of complete support conveying that the country's stand on Kashmir remains unchanged despite regime change in New Delhi.[81][82][83] Basit also invited Geelani for Pakistan Day function on March 23. Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, ritually invites pro-separatist leadership of Jammu and Kashmir for the function every year.[82][83][84]

Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI), an American government intelligence agency, in their first ever open acknowledgement in 2011 in US Court said that Inter-Services Intelligence(ISI), Pakistan’s spy agency, sponsors terrorism in Kashmir and it oversees terrorist separatist groups in Kashmir.[85][86][86][87][88][89]

Staging fake "Freedom Struggle"[edit]

Geelani and his Hurriyat has been criticised for staging a fake protest or fake 'freedom struggle' by paying money to local unemployed youth.[90][91] According to stone pelters who were arrested, each stone pelter is paid Rs 400($6–7) every Friday. Police said the money is being raised locally by Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani's followers. Most of the money comes from fruit mandi and saw mills, Pak based Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists also participates in stone peltings,[91] the police said.[90][91][92]

Appeal to Boycott of Elections[edit]

Geelani had appealed to people of Kashmir to boycott the 2014 Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly elections completely, arguing that "India has been holding elections in the Valley using the power of gun and so such an exercise is not legitimate".[93] But despite of repeated boycott appeals, 2014 assembly election recorded record voter's turnout of more than 65% which was highest in 25 years of history and higher than normal voting percentages in other states of India.[94][95][96]

After record voting percentage in Kashmir, Geelani has been heavily criticised by mainstream media for misleading people of Kashmir and for not representing true sentiments of Kashmiri people.[97][98][99][100]

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi said on high election voter turnout,"Separatist militants are frustrated because they are feeling that despite the use of guns and bombs and killing people, democracy is still alive in this state. I want to congratulate those voters of J&K who have voted in large numbers and made democracy victorious irrespective of the outcome."[101]

The European Parliament, on the behalf of European Union, welcomed the smooth conduct of the State Legislative Elections in the Jammu and Kashmir.[102] The EU in its message said that, "The high voter turnout figure proves that democracy is firmly rooted in India. The EU would like to congratulate India and its democratic system for conduct of fair elections, unmarred by violence, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir".[102][103][104] The European Parliament also takes cognizance of the fact that a large number of Kashmiri voters turned out despite calls for the boycott of elections by certain separatist forces.[103]

See also[edit]


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