Syed Ali Shah Geelani: Symbol of Freedom Struggle of Kashmir

Courtly appearance, soft hearted and kind mannered person who fought hard with his utter determination for the freedom of Indian occupied Jummu and Kashmir. Yes, he was none other than Syed Ali Shah Geelani.  Syed Ali Geelani was born on September 29, 1929, to Syed Peer Shah Geelani of Zoori Munz village in Tehsil Bandipora which then formed a part of Baramulla district. He received his early education at Sopore, and completed his studies at the Oriental College, Lahore (Pakistan). Being a young lad he spent most of his life near the headquarters of Plebiscite Front at Mujahid Manzil where Moulana Syed Masoodi supported him in many ways. Geelani was having a close relation with Syed Massodi, a relation of respect and obedience. He once revealed in an interview that “I owe him a lot. He has helped me through thick and thin”. It was possibly Masoodi’s influence that made him join the National Conference for a while. In the 1950s, Geelani joined Jamaat-e-Islami, the region’s leading political-religious organisation that shared ideological similarity with the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt.

In 2019, the organisation was banned by India under the influence of RSS ideology. In 1953, Jamaat-e-Islami, Jammu and Kashmir was part of Jamaat-e-Islami, Hind. Later under different circumstances Jammu and Kashmir had a separate unit of Jamaat-e-Islami. Once Geelani joined it and he never thought of looking back until 1997 when several differences with then chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, Ghulam Muhammad Bhat made him to say goodbye.

When in the early 1960s he started campaign for the merger of Muslim-majority territory’s with Azad Jummu and Kashmir, he became a challenge for the coward Indian occupied Government. In 1962, Geelani was jailed for nearly 10 years and after that was frequently restricted to his home.

Being a political leader he participated in several regional elections and won most of the times. He became part of the legislative assembly three times. He even contested elections in 1972 when Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah called for election boycott. While justifying his move he once stated that, “The Plebiscite Front had deviated from the basic stand way back in 1969 when it decided to contest municipal elections. Some Plebiscite Front leaders also informed the people of Sheikh Abdullah’s wavering stand but people did not take note. The Plebiscite Front, therefore, had no valid reason to call for election boycott. Further, the decision to contest the elections was taken by Jamaat-e-Islami not Geelani.” He was having deep knowledge of Quran.

He could talk for hours on social, political and religious matters being an aficionada. Geelani’s character, personality, demeanour and, above all, his impressive rhetoric in Kashmiri and Urdu language made an impression on youth and adults as well. He was an utter supporter of right to self-determination mentioned in the UN Security Council’s Resolution 47, adopted on April 21, 1948, and on January 5, 1949, which affirmed, “The question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.”

Here it is pertinent to mention that he was an utter supporter of merger of Kashmir with Pakistan. His most popular slogan” Hum Pakistani hain Pakistan Hamara hai”( we are Pakistani , Pakistan is ours) is still echoing in the beautiful valley.  

He was indeed very prolific, thoughtful and thunderous. His speeches were a piece of art, a beautiful mixture of Kashmiri and Urdu intermingled with Quranic verses, instances from the Hadith as well as couplets of the great poet philosopher Iqbal and Rumi. Geelani was an imperative member of Hurriyat Conference and in 1997, succeeded Dr Umer Farooq as its chairman. However, in 2003, he parted ways. In 2007, He was diagnosed with renal cancer. In 2008, he was put under house arrest during the Amarnath Land Row and the house imprisonment continued till his death. After a severe chest infection in 2014, his health worsens, but he continued to uphold a strong grip on his political conglomerate. His political viewpoint was purely a guideline for not only ending the world’s many disputes, ranging from Kashmir to Palestine and beyond, but also a solution for eradicating their fundamental causes. He was of the view that aggression will end only when oppression ends. Syed Ali shah Geelani’s death comes at a time when many in occupied Jammu and Kashmir believes that the region has become even more unstable since the revocation of Article 370 to shun its autonomous status. It was his commitment in the face of troubles and harsh conditions that made a place of honour for him in the hearts of many Kashmiris.

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