Afraid of unrest, Indian authorities oversee Syed Ali Geelani’s night-time burial

Fearing unrest in the Himalayan region, the Indian government oversaw the burial of veteran Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Geelani in a tightly controlled pre-dawn ceremony Thursday.

The uncompromising campaigner against Indian rule in occupied Kashmir died Wednesday at the age of 92 following a long illness, and thousands of police personnel were deployed soon after to try and prevent unrest in the disputed territory.

Geelani was buried at 4:30 am Thursday at a cemetery near his home in the main city of Srinagar, a police source told AFP. Only a small number of his relatives were present, including two of his sons, the source added.

Geelani, the most outspoken critic of India who spent several years in jail or under house arrest, had wanted to be buried at the Martyrs Cemetery in Srinagar. But authorities rejected that request, the police source said.

“We basically took control of the arrangements,” the official said.

Residents said authorities acted out of fear of mass mourning turning into unrest.

“Troops are everywhere, there are barbed wire blockades on every main road,” said one.

After the death became known, announcements were made from loudspeakers of the main mosque near Geelani’s residence asking people to march towards the house.

But police said no one in the Kashmir Valley would be allowed to leave their homes.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was among the first to pay tribute to Geelani, tweeting that he was “deeply saddened” at the death of the “Kashmiri freedom fighter” who had been under house arrest for most of the past 11 years.

Geelani had been ill for several months with heart and kidney problems.

Khan said that Geelani had “struggled all his life for his people and their right to self-determination. He suffered incarceration and torture by the occupying Indian state but remained resolute.”

He declared a day of national mourning in Pakistan.

‘We don’t know where he has been buried’

Syed Ali Geelani’s special representative Abdullah Geelani, on the other hand, has said that the family does not know where the veteran Kashmiri leader is buried. 

“The Indian Army has seized Geelani’s body,” he said. “We don;t know where he has been laid to rest.”

He said Geelani’s family has been tortured by Indian forces, adding that the Kashmiri leader should be buried at the Martyrs Cemetary as per his wishes. 

“The entire Kashmir has been closed down and communication has been blocked,” he said.