Srinagar: A week after Syed Ali Shah Geelani was buried in a graveyard near his Srinagar residence, the details of the Hurriyat patriarch’s last rites remain veiled under a cloak of secrecy.
Geelani was one of the founding members of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. His family has alleged that a team of the Jammu and Kashmir Police barged into their house last Wednesday and snatched away his body, effectively preventing them from carrying out his last rites.
The J&K police, however, has officially rejected the family’s claims. In a statement last week, the police had said Geelani’s last rites were attended by his relatives. They cited fears of a law and order breakdown to defend the haste with which the separatist leader was buried.
When The Wire contacted inspector general of police (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar for a comment on the relatives’ allegations, he replied that the police would release photos and videos to substantiate its claims that Geelani’s relatives had indeed participated in his last rites. “We are not in a hurry,” he said.
On Tuesday, the Kashmir Police Zone released nine short video clips on social media platforms, including Twitter, to show that all the Islamic rituals were performed before Geelani was buried.
The video clips, however, fall short of identifying the relatives who participated in the last rites.
The videos show a group of emotionless men, most of them masked, carrying out the last rites which start with a young bearded man in blue khan dress and white skull cap performing the ablution, an important ritual ahead of the funeral bath.
Another clip shows several dozen men on a lawn attending what is purportedly the funeral prayer for Geelani, before he was buried at a graveyard barely a few hundred metres away from his Hyderpora residence.
A police statement released along with the videos on Tuesday did not mention the names of the relatives who attended Geelani’s last rites. His two sons – Naeem Geelani and Naseem Geelani – are not seen in the videos.
Family sources told The Wire that the only family member present was Geelani’s nephew, who had arrived from Doru in south Kashmir and was outside the house when the police emerged with the body and ran after the ambulance all the way to the graveyard.
The statement claims that IGP Kumar “met both sons” at their residence on Wednesday night, “condoled them and requested for burial in the night for larger interest of general public due to potential major L&O (law and order) situations”.
“Both agreed and asked to wait for two hours until relatives reach. IGP Kashmir personally spoke to a few relatives and ensured them of safe passage,” the statement said.
Geelani’s family had also told The Wire that the police had agreed to allow them and their neighbours to perform the last rites.
“Instead, they raided the residence, trampled on everything, thrashed family members and took away the body. They were not even carrying a stretcher and the body had to be dragged on the floor,” a family member had said.
However, the police allege that the Geelani family was “under the pressure from Pakistan and miscreants” while “resorting to anti-national activities including wrapping dead body (of Geelani) in Pakistani flag, making loud sloganeering in favour of Pakistan and instigating neighbours to come out”.
The police has filed an FIR under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against unnamed members of Geelani’s family after videos surfaced on social media showing Geelani’s body draped in a green cloth emblazoned with a white crescent and star, resembling Pakistan’s national flag.
Naseem Geelani told The Wire that the police had sealed their father’s Hyderpora residence soon after his demise on Wednesday evening and only a handful of relatives were present inside the house.
“Police was controlling access to the house. They stopped many of our relatives from coming in. But there were many strangers inside who freely mingled with the police personnel. We don’t know who they were or who put the flag on his body. We were in a state of shock and grief,” Naseem said.
The police statement claims that Geelani’s body was brought out for last rites by his relatives who “performed last rites with due respect in presence of members of Intizamia Committee and local Imam”.
“The refusal of both his sons to come to graveyard indicated their loyalty to Pakistani agenda rather than their love & respect for their departed father,” the statement said.
In his will, Geelani had wanted to be buried at the Martyrs’ Graveyard in Srinagar; for the police, however, the prospect of a procession marching with his body from Hyderpora to downtown Srinagar was a security nightmare.
Rejecting the police’s claims, Naseem said police personnel scuffled with the family and snatched his father’s body.
“We tried to stop them from entering the room (where Geelani’s body was kept) but they broke open the door,” Naeem Geelani, Geelani’s eldest son who was by his father’s side when he passed away, had told The Wire.
A grainy video shot in the room where Geelani spent his last moments shows Naeem urging nearly a dozen police officials, some of them armed with automatic weapons, to let the family spend some time with Geelani.
“Since he passed away, you have been coercing us. We can’t participate in what you tell us to do. Whatever you want to do, go ahead, because you have power, you have the authority, you have everything. We have nothing,” Naeem tells the police officials surrounding him.
“We just wanted to spend some time with him. You don’t have (official) orders (to take away his body). Go ahead and do what you want to do,” Naeem continues, as the police officials listen in rapt attention.
Following Geelani’s death, a massive security clampdown was imposed in Kashmir to prevent people from attending his funeral. Mobile internet services have been restored across the region after remaining suspended for more than four days.
Mufti Nasir ul Islam, the chief Islamic jurist of Jammu and Kashmir based in Srinagar, condemned the police action as “un-Islamic”.
The Mufti told a news agency that the police should respect the privacy of deceased persons even if they are “criminals” on death row.
“I think his family is hurt and the people of Kashmir are hurt. Police should apologise for doing this,” he said.
This story has been updated with Mufti Nasir ul Islam’s quote.