SRINAGAR: In the dark of the night, Kashmir’s popular leader, Syed Ali Geelani, was laid to rest at a local graveyard in Srinagar’s Hyderpora area amid heightened presence of government forces.
Late at night, hundreds of troops sealed the roads surrounding the residence of Geelani to prevent people from assembling or reaching there. It was not known how he was buried and who was allowed to participate in his last rites as his family was incommunicado in the face of government forces preventing journalists from covering the funeral or visiting the family.
Two cops from Jammu and Kashmir Police, who have been on duty at Geelani’s residence since Wednesday midnight, told Kashmir Reader that about 200 people offered his funeral prayers before dawn. The funeral prayers were held at the Eidgah of the local Jamia Masjid, and later Geelani was buried at the graveyard adjacent to it. Three armed government men remained guard at the grave of the leader. At its entrance, at least a dozen of armed men were deployed, so were many vehicles of government forces.
The Jammu and Kashmir Government imposed restrictions, shut mobile internet, mobile phone services except the government run BSNl, as soon as the news about the death of Geelani came out. That was the last communication from the family about the last journey of the 92-year-old man who was kept under custody even during his old, ailing days.
A few years ago, when rumours about the ailing health of Geelani were rife, the government had at that time made a plan how to manage events post his demise. It was given that his funeral would gather crowds because of his popularity. If that funeral plan was executed remains unknown.
Multiple attempts to reach out to his family proved futile as the entire stretch of Hyderpora, the road that connects to the airport where VIP movement remains frequent, was fortified by a huge presence of government forces, including the paramilitary and army. Many companies of women paramilitary forces have also been put on duty. Even the entry to the road was blocked. There was one-way traffic coming from the airport side only. Anyone who had to go towards Hyderpora had to go through questioning by policemen.
Where do you have to go, was the most asked question to any passerby. At the entrance of Geelani’s residential lane, there was another group of forces who would allow either the residents or the relatives of the departed leader to go through. The area wore a deserted look.
Photojournalists who waited to capture the last glimpse of the leader were not allowed to do that. They were kept at the main Hyderpora square, so away that they could not even get an idea about what was happening at the funeral.
“We only waited until the dawn,” said one of the senior photojournalists who was there, wishing anonymity.
An incident of stone-pelting was also witnessed in Zaldagar area of the old city. An eyewitness told Kashmir Reader that the pelting started in late afternoon and continued till evening. Forces used teargas shelling to disperse the protestors.