AMID A strict security clampdown across Kashmir following his death on Wednesday night, Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani was given a quiet burial at a cemetery near his house in the early hours of Thursday.
Geelani’s younger son, Syed Naseem Geelani, alleged that some police personnel barged into their house at night, took away the body, and held the last rites on their own. Denying this, the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Police said Geelani’s “relatives participated in the last rites”.
“They were putting pressure on us to bury him at night,” Naseem told The Indian Express. “We said we would bury him at 10 am. When they didn’t relent, we said we would bury him early in the morning. But at 3 am, they barged inside and took away the body,” he said.
Naseem said they were later informed that Geelani had been buried. “None of us were allowed to participate in the funeral,” he said.
The burial took place at around 4:30 am, amid heavy security deployment. Family members said they were only allowed to visit the grave in the morning.
Relatives said they were not allowed to perform the last rites of the 92-year-old separatist leader, including the ritual funeral bath.
Denying this, Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar said: “The reported allegations against the police are baseless. In fact, police facilitated in bringing the body from his house to the graveyard as there was apprehension that miscreants may take undue advantage of the situation. Relatives participated in the last rites.”
On Wednesday night, Geelani’s Pakistan-based representative, Abdullah Geelani, had announced that the separatist leader would be buried at the martyrs’ cemetery in Srinagar, in accordance with his will.
“We told them (police) to do whatever they had to do – whether they wanted to impose a curfew or prevent people from attending his funeral – but to let us bury him at the martyrs’ cemetery to fulfill his wish. But they didn’t listen to our plea,” said a relative who didn’t want to be named.
“This is unjust. This is against the Constitution and the law of the land. What do they want to convey by this (action)? They can’t justify this wrong by making an excuse about a law and order situation,” said Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam, the Grand Mufti of Kashmir. Geelani’s death “is a great loss to the nation, we have lost a legend,” he said.
The news of Geelani’s death started doing the rounds just past 11 pm on Wednesday. Within an hour, the Valley saw a strict security clampdown, similar to the restrictions imposed on August 5, 2019, when J&K’s special status was revoked and the state bifurcated. Mobile Internet services were shut down as a precautionary measure.
Security forces manned every major crossing, and rolls of concertina wire and barricades blocked roads leading to Geelani’s residence, as well as to the airport.
The original police plan, formulated over two years ago, was to delay the news of the death till 11 pm; their job was made easier as he died shortly before 11 pm. “Another issue was the concern that he would have to be hospitalised, but that situation was averted because of his demise at home,” said a senior security official.
By 1 am, armoured trucks barred entry beyond the Hyderpora Chowk that leads to the airport. On the road leading to Geelani’s residence, family members who arrived in private cars were screened at the barricades, and only close relatives were allowed.
Senior government officials also arrived at Geelani’s residence. Over the next couple of hours, scores of buses and trucks drove past the barricades, carrying paramilitary personnel for deployment. The influx began just after 3:30 am and continued intermittently till dawn.
It was only after the burial was over that senior police officials started leaving the area.
In a statement in the evening, police said “some vested interests” were trying to “spread baseless rumours about a forcible burial”. The statement said such “baseless reports” were part of “false propaganda to incite violence”, being spread by “anti-national elements, especially across the border, who are trying to take undue advantage of the situation”.
Police said the situation across the Valley remained peaceful and no untoward incident was reported on Thursday. According to the statement, similar restrictions and Internet shutdown will continue on Friday, and the situation will be “reviewed” in the afternoon.
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