India’s armed guard stands over grave of Syed Ali Geelani amid public anger

Sept 8, 2021: India’s security forces are patrolling the grave of a separatist leader in Kashmir amid public outrage over police footage of his funeral, which his family says they have been barred from attending.

India’s authorities have closed security in the disputed Himalayan region since the death of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the 92-year-old Hurriyat leader, last Wednesday.

The next day, his son, Naseem Geelani, said that armed police snatched his father’s body in the middle of the night and forcibly buried him, saying “none of us were allowed to attend the last prayer. ”

India’s Police have denied the allegations, but a fresh outcry erupted after a video was posted on Twitter on Monday, in which Gilani’s body was washed, wrapped in a shroud and buried. Fearing protests, his grave in Srinagar, the capital of occupied Kashmir, is under armed guard and visitors are not allowed to enter.

Mufti Nasirul Islam, the most senior Islamic jurist in India’s only Muslim-majority region, which is also claimed by Pakistan, condemned the police action as “un-Islamic”.

He told AFP that the body of a dead man should be respected.

“I think his family is hurt and the people of Kashmir are injured. The police should apologize for doing this.”

Police released the clips of the video, which were widely shared on social media, showed Geelani’s body wrapped in a Pakistani flag, which was taken away by armed police when his family members attacked police officers.

The security forces then issued a statement saying that Geelani’s sons initially agreed to a hasty funeral but that they were “probably under pressure from Pakistan” and “resorting to anti-national activities”.

After Geelani’s death, Indian authorities cut off mobile phone coverage and internet across Kashmir, services that have only started returning online since Sunday.

Geelani once headed the Hurriyat Conference, an influential coalition of separatist groups in Kashmir that has led political resistance to Indian rule since the early 1990s.

The conference announced on Tuesday that Musarat Alam Batt, a resistance leader who has been in an Indian jail since 2010, has been named the new head of the coalition.

Shabbir Ahmed Shah, another prison leader, once known as Nelson Mandela of Kashmir, has been made the new vice chairman of the coalition.

Media reports suggest the group could be banned, just like other political and religious organizations that have been outlawed since 2019, when New Delhi revoked the region’s special status and transformed into a federal territory.

Like his predecessor Geelani, Batt, 51, is considered a symbol of Kashmir resistance against India’s occupation and has been in custody for almost 25 years.

Shah has spent a total of 33 years in India’s jails intermittently since the 1980s.

The Indian government has often sent top Hurriyat leaders to jail.

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