SRINAGAR: Senior Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, known for his hardline approach, breathed his last at his residence in Hyderpora, Srinagar on Wednesday evening.
He was 92 years old. According to his family, his health condition worsened on Wednesday afternoon and he passed away at 10.30 pm. Geelani, who was under house detention since 2010, had been suffering from various ailments for a very long time.
He was known for his hardline ideology and advocated J&K’s accession to Pakistan. He was heading a Hurriyat faction since 2003.
The Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella of different separatist groups, was formed in 1993. However, owing to differences, Geelani in 2003 split the Hurriyat Conference into two.
He headed one of the factions, which was known for its hardline stance while Mirwaiz Umar Farooq headed another faction (a more moderate faction). Geelani was a member of Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir but later quit Jamaat to found his own party—Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.
He spearheaded the 2008 Amarnath land row agitation, 2010 and 2016 uprisings in the Valley. He was opposed to bilateral talks with India and favoured tripartite talks involving Pakistan, Kashmiri leaders and India.
He was the only Kashmiri leader who opposed former Pakistan military ruler General Parvez Musharraf’s four-point Kashmir formula.
When an all-party delegation visited his Hyderpora residence during the 2016 agitation, he refused to meet them. Geelani, who was born on September 29, 1929 in Sopore, was an MLA from Sopore constituency of Jammu and Kashmir in 1972, 1977 and 1987.
However, after the eruption of militancy, he joined the separatist politics and remained a popular leader among the masses, including the youth.
In November 2010, the police invoked sedition charges against Geelani, Arundhati Roy, activist Varavara Rao and three others in an FIR in connection with a speech calling for freedom for Kashmir.
The authorities have sounded high alert across the Valley in light of his death. Security forces have been beefed up to prevent acts of violence. Internet services were suspended until further notice.
The mainstream leaders including former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and Peoples Conference chairman Sajjad Gani Lone condoled his death.
“Saddened by the news of Geelani sahab’s passing away. We may not have agreed on most things but I respect him for his steadfastness & standing by his beliefs. May Allah Ta’aala grant him jannat & condolences to his family & well wishers,” tweeted PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti.