Kashmiri separatist patriarch Syed Ali Shah Geelani who passed away after a prolonged illness late Wednesday night was buried quietly in a Muslim cemetery located a couple of hundred yards from his residence in Srinagar’s Hyderpora area early Thursday.
The locals said that the 92-year-old fiery politician was laid to rest in haste under tight security in the mazaar adjacent to a mosque and a Sufi shrine between 3.30 am and 4 am. The police sources said that a mass burial was disallowed in anticipation of possible anti-India protests and in view of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Syed Geelani’s son Dr. Nayeem Geelani, however, alleged that the police “snatched” his body after the family sought time for the funeral till, at least, 10 am Thursday “so that our close relatives who had not come to our place yet too could have a last glimpse of Abba, join the namaz-e-janaza and be present at the burial”.
The family claimed that the separatist leader had expressed the will that he should be buried at Srinagar’s Idgah Mazaar-e-Shohada (martyrs’ cemetery) but the authorities categorically refused to permit it and said that they wanted him to be laid to rest at the nearby Muslim cemetery “within one hour” and if the family was not willing they could not do it themselves. Nayeem alleged that the police then snatched the body and forcibly buried it after pushing and overpowering the family members and even scuffled with the women.
His younger brother Dr. Naseem Geelani said, “Nobody from the family was present for his burial. We don’t know who gave him the gussal (last bath), who offered namaz-e-janaza (funeral prayer) for him and who buried him. We saw Abba Jan’s grave only at 10 am and offered fateha”.
The Kashmir police denied the allegations. Its twitter handle quoted Inspector General of Police, Vijay Kumar, as saying, “Reported allegations against the police are baseless. In fact, the police facilitated in bringing the dead body from the house to the graveyard as there was apprehension that miscreants might take undue advantage of the situation. Relatives participated in the last rites.”
Kumar had at around 11 pm on Wednesday turned up at Syed Geelani’s house to request the family that it should ensure minimum participation of people in the funeral owing to COVID-19 protocol.
Syed Geelani's Pakistan-based representative Abdullah Gilani had earlier in a tweet said that he would be laid to rest at Mazaar-e-Shohada in Srinagar’s Idgah grounds.
But the family sources said that Geelani's kin were warned by the authorities against seeking to make his funeral a political manifestation. They were also strictly told that chanting of any political slogans during the funeral would invite legal action.
Soon after the news about Syed Geelani’s death broke, major cities and towns of Kashmir Valley including capital Srinagar were brought under curfew-like restrictions and the internet services and voice calling on mobile phones except in the state-owned BSNL were snapped "as a precautionary measure". Security was beefed up also in Jammu region particularly Muslim-majority Chenab valley and Pir Panjal region.
Fear and tension that had gripped the Valley particularly Srinagar, however, eased by Thursday afternoon and soon some areas witnessed partial opening of shops. The police sources said that the security restrictions may remain in force in the Valley for, at least, three more days and that during this period no mourning rallies or similar public gatherings would be allowed in order to maintain peace and in view of the pandemic.
Amid reports of angry crowds taking to streets at a few places, the police authorities have warned that "anti-national, anti-social and disruptive elements who will try to seize the opportunity to create disturbances or law and order situations will be dealt with severely under law".
Family sources stated that Geelani, who was suffering from multiple ailments, complained of severe chest pain on Wednesday afternoon, following which he developed serious complications by the evening. They added that he breathed his last at 10.30 pm.
“He had chest congestion and breathing problems and his condition worsened by this evening,” the sources said.
He was under house detention for the past eleven years, the sources added....