Fellow teachers, students and Kashmiris pay tribute to SAR Geelani

Human rights activists, teachers and students on Friday paid tributes to former Delhi University teacher and civil rights activist SAR Geelani , who passed away on Thursday at the age of 50.

Fellow teachers, students and friends had gathered at Fortis C-Doc Hospital and AIIMS. Geelani’s colleagues paid tributes to Geelani, saying they have lost a brave-heart and courageous activist and beloved friend.

“SAR Geelani was a man of great moral courage. They made your life hard, professor, may you find peace in the hereafter,” journalist and novelist Mirza Waheed tweeted.

“Geelani was a good friend of my husband… (his death) is very shocking,” Vasantha Saibaba, wife of DU professor G N Saibaba, who is serving life imprisonment for alleged Maoist links told Indian Express.

Geelani remained steadfast against injustices and continued fighting for all political prisoners, E.M Abdul Rahiman, national executive committee member of Popular Front of India said.

“DU Professor SAR Geelani who not only survived the false cases and custodial torture by Indian state but also fought for thousands of others who are being labelled as ‘terroists’ and thrown in prisons. Rest in peace, sir. You have inspired all of us to fight for justice,” Kawalpreet Kaur, student at Faculty of Law, Delhi University and president of All India Student’s Association Delhi tweeted.

St. Stephen’s College professor Nandita Narain said that Geelani had asthma and was under a lot of stress after the clampdown in his home state Kashmir. “He constantly faced harassment. He was shot at and injured in 2005. The Press constantly printed false stories planted by police which were absurd and never proved. After the Press Club incident, he was suspended from college,” Narain told The Telegraph on Thursday.

“When our party last met him in Delhi in last September 2019, he complained that the security forces, mainly the Delhi Police was keeping him under strict surveillance and many a time he used to receive the mid night knock of the police. This means that Geelani’s fundamental rights were being violated. Since the Supreme Court had acquitted him honourably in the Parliament attack case of 2001, the Hindu Indian state should have let him live a life of a peaceful citizen and not kept him under watch. It is a sad day for democracy, the rule of law and Principles of Natural Justice. Our party prays for his soul and may Waheguru Sahib keep him safe and sound in His kingdom and Darbar,” Simranjit Singh Mann, Sikh politician and president of Shiromani Akali Dal said in a statement.

Geelani always stood like a wall to the fascist forces till last breath of his life, Kashmiri journalist Junaid Dar paid tributes to Geelani.

“He was a scholar and teacher of Arabic, a campaigner for the rights of political prisoners, an activist amongst the teaching fraternity of Delhi University and most importantly an important voice from Kashmir,” former JNU student leader Umar Khalid posted on Facebook.

Kanu Priya, student activist in Punjab University posted on Facebook.

“He fought a good fight for a tolerant, open and just society despite the harassment and torture from the authorities. The trial and tribulations he has undergone only fortified his pursuit of human rights in Kashmir,” National Confedration Of Human Rights Orgnizations said in a statement.

The body of SAR Geelani, who died following cardiac arrest Thursday, was taken to Kashmir Friday afternoon for the funeral at his hometown, Baramulla.

Family members wanted to take his body to Kashmir for the funeral Thursday, and informed police that they did not want a post-mortem as they didn’t suspect any foul play. Police, however, decided to conduct a post-mortem.

The Body was seized by Delhi Police on Thursday, even after doctor at
Fortis C-Doc Hospital and family confirmed it was a natural death, due to cardiac arrest. Police had no explanation for the extraordinary procedure. Geelani’s colleagues alleged it is an attempt to delay the funeral, as the state wants to take measures for the impact in Kashmir.

Geelani was arrested and sentenced to death by a Delhi court in 2002 in connection with the 2001 Parliament attack. The Delhi High Court acquitted him of all charges in October 2003, which was upheld by Supreme Court in August 2005. He had spent 22 months in jail, facing trial for allegedly helping the Parliament attackers, a charge the prosecution could not prove.

In an interview to senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, published in her 2013 book In Custody, Geelani narrated how he was stripped and tortured, and how all the legal checks and balances — such as the medical check-up and production before a magistrate — were subverted.

Geelani, who earlier taught Arabic at Zakir Hussain College, was vocal about Kashmir and was also critical of the hanging of Afzal Guru, who was convicted and hanged for the 2001 Parliament attack.

Geelani participated in several fact-finding teams of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners, of which he became president.

During his last interview, professor SAR Geelani shared his thoughts on Kashmir’s freedom movement and on democracy in India to Keyboard Journal. This interview was done by Mrudula Bhavani, journalist based in Kerala on October 5 2019.

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