Geelani: The Gallant Freedom Fighter
Updated: Sep 2
Immediately after the Friday prayer, I spotted him at the corner of the Masjid at the compound of Jama e Islami in Delhi. People were still praying, but I decided to get closer to his row of prayer to ensure I do not lose his sight. He finished the prayers, and I rushed to him. He remembered me. I told him about the demise of Dr. Fathi Osman, who he had hosted in Srinagar in 1983 for more than a week. I briefed him about Dr. Osman's book The Concepts of the Quran.
He invited me to his residence in Delhi. There he spent 4 hours explaining his vision of Kashmir, Islam, and the Muslim world. A calm and composed man who never raised his voice, was in tears whenever he talked about the sacrifices of the people of Kashmir for their right to self-determination.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani was a towering Kashmiri intellectual, organizer, activist, orator, thinker, and motivator. He dedicated his life to the freedom of his people and sacrificed everything one can think of. My admiration for him goes back to 1979 when I first visited Kashmir to research youth unemployment. Together with him, I attended several youth camps and learned about his struggles.
In 1983, the chief editor of Islamic World View, Dr. Fathi Osma, and I visited the valley of Kashmir for more than two weeks. We met him several times and learned his view on a free Kashmir.
The right to self-determination was his call. Moreover, he wanted a good status for his people. In his vision for a free Kashmir, minorities were equal; women had complete freedom, education was free, scientific development was essential, removal of unemployment was necessary, and peace and law and order was the top priority. There was no place for discrimination on any basis in Kashmir.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani (29 September 1929 – 1 September 2021) was a liberation leader in Jammu and Kashmir He was a member of Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir but later on founded Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, and served as its chairman. He was an MLA from the Sopore constituency of Jammu and Kashmir in 1972, 1977, and 1987. He quit the Hurriyat in June 2020.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani received the invitation to participate in the annual meeting of the foreign ministers of member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Kashmir Contact Group held in New York from 27 September 2015.
On 29 November 2010, Geelani, along with writer Arundhati Roy, activist Varavara Rao and three others, was charged for sedition. The charges, which carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, were the result of a self-titled seminar they gave in New Delhi, "Azadi-the Only Way" on 21 October, at which Geelani was heckled.
Geelani lived in Hyderpora, Srinagar. Geelani has two sons; Nayeem and Naseem, and four daughters; Anisha, Farhat Jabeen, Zamshida, and Chamshida. Anisha and Farhat are Geelani's daughters from his second marriage. Nayeem and his wife are both doctors who used to live and practise medicine in Rawalpindi Pakistan, but they returned to India in 2010. Geelani's younger son, Naseem works at an agricultural university in Srinagar. Geelani's grandson Izhaar is a crew member in a private airline in India. Geelani's daughter Farhat is a Madani teacher in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and her husband is an engineer there. Geelani's other grandchildren are studying in leading schools of India. His cousin Ghulam Nabi Fai is presently in the USA. Ruwa Shah, daughter of Kashmiri freedom fighter Altaf Ahmad Shah (SAS Geelani's son-in-law) is a journalist. She previously worked as a journalist in India with organisations including the dawn, IANS, Quint and The Indian Express, since 2014.
Geelani's passport was seized in 1981 due to accusations of "anti-India" activities. Except his Hajj pilgrimage in 2006, he has not been allowed to leave India. He was diagnosed with renal cancer and advised treatment from abroad in the same year. On the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's intervention, the Government returned Geelani's passport to his son. In 2007, his condition worsened, although it was life-threatening in the early stages of cancer, and surgery was advised. Geelani was set to travel to either the UK or the United States. However, his visa request was rejected by the American Government, citing his violent approach in the Kashmir conflict, and he went to Mumbai for surgery. His supporters and family alleged that this was a "human rights violation."
After the 2019 Pulwama attack, India took stronger action against freedom fighters, including Geelani. The Enforcement Directorate levied a penalty of ₹14.40 lakh and ordered the confiscation of nearly ₹6.8 lakh in connection with a Foreign Exchange Management Act case against him for illegal possession of foreign exchange.
Geelani reportedly developed breathing complications and passed away on 01 September 2021 at approximately 10:30 p.m at his Hyderpora residence in Srinagar due to his prolonged illness.
May Allah have mercy upon him and inspire his people to achieve freedom from tyranny.