Saturday January 22, 2022

Geelani sahib: in memoriam

September 04, 2021

The passing away of Syed Ali Shah Geelani marks the culmination of a life dedicated to the people and cause of Occupied Kashmir.

Geelani sahib’s dedication, devotion, sacrifices and his austere life is a shining example, especially for the monarchical qaideen of this, thankfully, free Pakistan. Born in Sopore on September 29, 1929, Geelani sahib received his education from Oriental College Lahore. He had a degree in Islamic Theology and was an avid student of Islamic jurisprudence, Urdu and Persian.

Greatly inspired and influenced by Allama Iqbal, Geelani sahib authored two books about the poetry of Allama Iqbal and its Islamic roots. He also wrote over 30 pamphlets and books including ‘Wular Kinaray’ and ‘Rudad-e-Qafas’, a memoir of his days as a prisoner. Having spent years in prison, the specter he presented to the brutal Indian occupiers is mirrored in the fact that the frail 91-year-old Geelani sahib passed away under house arrest and was buried under Indian army supervision under total curfew and media blackout.

The demise of this towering figure shall not, in any way, be the end of his legacy. Over the decades, his lifelong struggle against the brutal Indian occupation has become an inspiration, a guiding light, for a whole new generation. The sown seeds of freedom can never ever be undone. Geelani sahib’s autobiography, ‘Paradise on Fire: Syed Ali Geelani and the Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir’, narrates his lifelong struggle against the hegemonic doings of India.

The author used Abdul Hakeem as a pseudonym to avoid persecution and charges of sedition. In the book’s foreword, writer and broadcaster Lauren Booth (sister-in-law of Tony Blair) encapsulates Geelani sahib’s life. She writes, “This book is the story of one man’s self sacrifice told through the struggle of an entire people. Paradise on Fire is a call to the conscience of humanity”.

Geelani sahib asserted that India was following Israel’s template in usurping and occupying territories and perpetrating state terrorism. The Pakistan-phobic Indian government and media always accused and presented Geelani sahib as being dictated by Pakistan and its army. This allegation was rubbished when, in 2006, General Musharraf offered India a Four-Point Formula regarding Occupied Kashmir. The points were: phased withdrawal of troops, free movement across the LOC; self-governance; and joint mechanism to resolve the issue. Geelani sahib opposed it, terming it a departure from the UN resolutions regarding self-determination for Kashmiris and wrongfully offering India joint control over Occupied Kashmir.

Kashmir, known as Pir Waer – the Alcove of Sufis and Saints – was famed for the peace, harmony and spirituality preached by its many saints. Today, Kashmir bleeds amidst the darkness of terror, the atrocities go unheeded worldwide. This callous indifference, amounting to blatant complicity, fuels an ever-deepening resentment among Kashmiris. The West led by the US, purported champions of democracy and the free world, can invade countries on fabricated evidence, murdering and maiming millions and yet is found heartlessly wanting to the agony of Kashmiris.

It is an established fact that tyrannizing and killing innocent civilians by occupiers fuels freedom movements. Gen Stanley McChrystal who commanded US forces in Afghanistan always referred to it as “insurgent math”. It is all but absolutely logical that if India can follow the Israeli template, Kashmiris shall use the Taliban one that saw the ignominious exit of the West from Afghanistan. The brutalities and injustice of India compounded by a complicit West may well totally sideline those Kashmiri leaders who sought and followed a political course. Today, the hands that wove something as delicate as the famed shahtoosh hold guns.

Can anyone deny the fact that if Aasiya Andrabi had stood up to the Taliban, the Chinese or the Russians, she would have been branded a modern day Joan of Arc? Yet, all her just endeavors against the Indian might for a liberated Kashmir are reciprocated with persecution and incarceration time and again. Geelani sahib, in the same context, would have been hailed a hero, a Nelson Mandela; he breathed his last, a captive in a brutalized internment camp that is Occupied Kashmir.

The writer is a freelance contributor.