India locks down Kashmir after death of top separatist leader

SRINAGAR, India – Indian authorities went through the public movement in controversial Kashmir on Thursday following the death of Syed Ali Geelani, a leading separatist leader who has become the emblem of the region’s resistance to New Delhi, and imposed an almost complete on Thursday Communication block.

Geelani, who died late Wednesday at the age of 92, was buried in a quiet funeral at a local cemetery organized by the authorities under strict conditions, his son Naseem Geelani told the Associated Press. He said the family had planned the funeral at the Chief Martyrs Cemetery in Srinagar, the region’s capital, at his will, but was not allowed by the police.

“They tore his body and forcibly buried him. No one from the family was present at his funeral. We tried to resist, but they overwhelmed us and even fought with women, ”said Naseem Geelani.

The Press Trust of India news agency reported that officials buried Geelani’s body and banned any mass burial pending anti-India protests.

Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.Dar Yasin / AP file

With most of the Kashmiris locked in their homes, armed police and soldiers patrolled the tense area. Government forces erected steel barricades and barbed wire over many roads, bridges and intersections, and set up additional checkpoints in towns and villages in the Kashmir Valley.

In anticipation of mass protests, the authorities cut off most of the cellular networks and mobile internet.

Geelani led Kashmir’s movement for the right to self-determination and was an ideologue and staunch supporter of Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan. He firmly opposed any dialogue with New Delhi, a position completely rejected by several Indian governments, who often referred to him as a hard-line politician.

Geelani was also the face of Kashmir’s civil resistance to Indian rule. He headed a faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a conglomerate of various political and religious groups in Kashmir that was founded in 1993 to lead a movement for the right of self-determination in the region.

The group used civil disobedience in the form of closings and protests as tactics to counter Indian rule.

For many in Kashmir and beyond, Geelani was an enduring icon of resistance to India.

Farmer Mohammed Akbar said Geelani’s death filled him with both remorse and anger after learning that Geelani’s body was quietly buried by the authorities, who barred Kashmiris and his extended family from attending the final rites.

“They are looking for ways to humiliate us,” Akbar said, holding his grandson in his arms. “They’re even afraid of dead Geelani.”

Pakistan held a day of official mourning and, on orders from Prime Minister Imran Khan, flags were waved over half of the staff and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the private burial by the Indian authorities.

“Pakistan strongly condemns the barbaric kidnapping of the remains of the iconic leader of Kashmir” by the Indian police, the ministry said in a statement in Islamabad.

It states that the Indian government is “so afraid of Syed Geelani and what he stood for that they have now committed this inhuman act even after his death. This shows the degree of callousness on the part of the occupying power. “

Indian paramilitary soldiers patrol the streets to crack down on the public movement as civilians walk in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir on Thursday.Mukhtar Khan / AP

Kashmir has long been a focal point between India and Pakistan, which claim the region in full but control only parts of it.

Militant groups have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the militant groups’ goal of either uniting the territory under Pakistani rule or becoming an independent country.

New Delhi accuses Pakistan of supporting the Kashmiri militants, an allegation Pakistan denies. Tens of thousands of civilians, militants and government forces were killed in the conflict.

Tensions in the region rose again in 2019 after New Delhi deprived Kashmiri of partial autonomy, abolished its statehood, and lifted inherited land and job protection measures. Since then, the authorities have passed a series of new laws that many critics and Kashmiris have compared to the beginning of settler colonialism.

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