India ups security in Kashmir after death of politician Syed Ali Shah Geelani
The death of India-administered Kashmir’s separatist politician Syed Ali Shah Geelani has prompted Indian authorities to clamp down on security in the restive region. Pakistan’s PM saluted “his courageous struggle.”
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the cornerstone of separatist politics in Indian-administered Kashmir, has died at the age of 91.
The veteran politician, who had been ailing for some time and was under house arrest for the last 12 years, passed away on Wednesday night at his home in Srinagar.
Geelani’s death has prompted Indian authorities to impose a security clampdown in Kashmir, which has long been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan, while the latter’s prime minister, Imran Khan, spoke of the separatist leader’s “courageous struggle” in the face of “torture by the Occupying Indian state.”
Internet shut down, troops deployed
According to the police, mobile internet has been suspended as a precautionary measure and thousands of troops have been deployed in the region which is one of the world’s most militarized zones.
Reports said that barbed wires and barricades have been set up along the roads leading to Geelani’s house in reaction to his death.
Announcements were also made from the loudspeakers of the main mosque near the leader’s house asking people to march to his residence, according to media reports.
However, the police have said no one in the Kashmir valley would be allowed to leave their houses.
Pakistan PM reacts
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a statement on Twitter that he was “deeply saddened” by Geelani’s death and the leader had ”struggled all his life for his people & their right to self determination.”
New Delhi, meanwhile, is yet to react to Geelani’s death.
Hardline stance, wanted Kashmir-Pakistan merger
Geelani, an Islamist author and a fervid orator, was a staunch advocate of the merger of Kashmir with Pakistan.
He had repeatedly refused to engage in any dialogue with New Delhi, saying “India can’t be trusted unless it calls Kashmir a disputed territory, demilitarizes the region and releases political prisoners for a meaningful dialogue.”
Successive Indian governments rejected Geelani’s position.
He was also a strong critic of the occasional but failed attempts of talks between India and Pakistan.
His hardline position also had critics in Kashmir.
“We may not have agreed on most things but I respect him for his steadfastness and standing by his beliefs,” Mehbooba Mufti, a former chief minister of Kashmir, wrote on Twitter.
From teaching to politics
Geelani started out as a school teacher before joining Kashmir’s largest religious and political party Jamat-e-Islami in the 1950s.
He resigned as a lawmaker to join the anti-India campaign in the 1980s, becoming the symbol for Kashmiri resistance.
Geelani served as the chairperson of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a conglomerate of Kashmiri political and religious groups that was formed in 1993 to lead a movement for the region’s right to self-determination.
dvv/jsi (AFP, AP, Reuters)