Malik Nisar & Sajad Gul
“The great leader stood tall till his fall. The gravity of his presence can be felt by the absence of any contemporary leader of such grandeur during his era. In my vicinity I have seen many young kids being called by a sobriquet ‘chota Geelani’ just for a simple reason that those kids are a bit honest and humble in their daily affairs. It will get stronger with every breath that Kashmir will breathe from his death,” says Sajad Ahmad, the civil service aspirant and an avid follower of Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
Geelani was ubiquitous, influential and uncompromising leader of the separatist movement in Kashmir, who emerged as a symbol of resistance and the struggle for self determination. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who vexed the New Delhi government for decades with his uncompromising politics, died on 01 September night, while under house arrest at his Srinagar residence. He was 91.
“It was like Geelani’s death was known hours before to government forces that they erected barricades just in a blink of eye,” says Abdul Majeed of Hyderpora.
Abdul Khaliq Haneef, who once represented Islamic group, Jamaat-e-Islami, in the Geelani-led Hurriyat Conference, and has been a close friend of Geelani and is an elected President of Jammu Kashmir Mutahid Mahaz. He believes Geelani was the leader of masses who till his last breath did not compromise on his belief of independence.
“I have spent 33 years with Geelani. We have hosted many events together. I see him as a good human being who used to read and research a lot. At times, we had disagreements with each other, but used to resolve them with peace. He always believed that freedom was the birth right of every Kashmiri,” said Abdul Khaliq Haneef.
In the 91 years of his life, Syed Ali Geelani was imprisoned for 20 years, and spent the last decade under house detention. He was imprisoned in jails outside J&K as well. During this period he suffered several ailments, including heart problems for which he had to undergo a pacemaker implant.
One of his kidneys had to be removed and he was being treated for asthma of the lungs. His only kidney, which was half of the normal size, had begun to grow again, performing the function that two kidneys do. In between these health complications, Geelani continued his political life, and wrote over thirty books ranging from religion, literature and politics.
“Little attention is paid how he saw himself as an organisational man, a loyal and disciplined member of Hurriyat and the movements it inspired. Geelani’s own trajectory towards the sacred cause was never fully appreciated,” adds Khaliq Haneef.
Basharaat Ahmad Mir, 26-year-old international relations and peace and conflict student from Kashmir, says that a leader is someone who reads and writes and Geelani was a living example of that.
“We can’t replace anyone with Geelani. He was a conscious leader, a great academician, philosopher, writer and a good orator. He was unmatched and unparalleled”.
Abdul Hameed Mir 40-years-old from Srinagar who has remained a hardliner of Geelani led “Hurriyat Conference” says that it is a “huge loss to the valley that we lost such a brilliant leader and honest personality”.
“His sacrifice towards the Kashmir will never be forgotten, really never,” Mir says.
In 1972 when Geelani was elected three-time Member of Legislative Assembly from Sopore constituency, elected on a Jamaat-e-Islami ticket in 1972, 1977 and in 1987.
“I fought from the Sonawari constituency and I was jailed for many months under Preventive Detention Act (PDA) for fighting in favour of him,” says Haneef
“Geelani and I have spent days and nights in different jails,” Mir tells Maktoob at his home in Hajin Bandipora.
“After Geelani saw the injustice with Kashmiri’s he voluntarily resigned from the post of member of the legislative assembly in 1990 and choose the path of fighting for the resolution of Kashmir issue with India,” Haneef says.
A Freedom fighter
Geelani was born on Sept 29, 1929, from then a small and remote village of Bandipora known as Zoori Munz, a small village on the bank of Wular Lake.
A historian from Lahore, Muhammad Din Fauq, was visiting Kashmir when he met Geelani. He took Geelani to Lahore, Pakistan to study the Quran. Geelani earned a bachelor degree in Persian literature.
He was appointed as a government teacher. He served in Sopore College as an instructor for several years.
Meanwhile in 1946, during the Kashmir Quit Movement of the National Conference, he came in contact with Moulana Sayeed Masoodi of Lolab Kupwara, who was the general secretary of the National Conference, who took a liking to him and made him a reporter to the party newspaper Akbar-i-Khidmat.
After a brief time with Khidmat, Geelani joined Jamaat-e- Islami in the 1950s. He developed inclination to Pakistan.
“Geelani was the face of political resistance in Kashmir. I don’t think anyone else can match his popularity, one among the earliest leaders of jamat-e-islami, his influence was such that people would call him ‘BAB’ father, people used to follow his letter and spirit. He was the tallest leader among new generation, the fact he remained uncompromising till the end is what gained him respect, and made people follow him,” says Lubna Rashid the student of journalism and mass communication.
“Indeed, the resistance is orphaned, the loss is huge. Nobody can fill the void, but we all are aware that the caravan never stops and that makes little hopeful that there would be someone to take the resistance forward” she added.