Days after estranged Syed Ali Geelani transferred ‘his property’ to an autonomous trust, Jama’at-e-Islami cried foul. The controversy brought once fair weather friends face to face again. As skeletons start to tumble out, Shah Abbas takes a look at the controversy and beyond

cover-illustration-Syed-Ali-Geelani-Property-RowThe parties and leaders (Syed Ali Geelani and Jama’at-e-Islami) who claim to represent “the blood of martyrs” and are meant to take “forward the freedom movement” are finally in controversy over Hyderpora property.

The interesting part of the story is that both are claiming stakes only through press statements and none among them is producing any legal document to prove its claim. But the fresh controversy has activated Jama’at to think over the ownership of its property worth crores in Kashmir only.

After the eighty five years old separatist face Syed Ali Geelani, announced on January 18, to transfer his Hyderpora residence and office to an autonomous trust (Milli Trust) for “the sake of cause”, Jama’at-e-Islami, the oldest and cadre based socio-politico-religious organization of Kashmir, on January 20 came heavily against the announcement claiming stake over Geelani’s Hyderpora residence.

But the counter statement of Milli Trust said, “The statement issued by Jama’at-e-Islami about the transfer of Geelani’s property, is far from reality and it has no legal or ethical basis.”

Giving aims and objectives of the trust, its spokesman said, “The trust will remain active for the sacred goals of Islam, freedom and unity, and irrespective of race, colour, religion, language and party interests, will try its level best to serve the people on the basis of brotherhood and humanity.”

“The decision is historic and should serve as an example for others and whosoever has established assets in the name of Kashmir cause, should dedicate it for the collective good of nation and people,” the spokesman added.

“Since 1990, a number of leaders appeared on the political front of Kashmir each claiming himself “the representative of martyrs” succeeded in making huge properties,” a Lawyer who is a member of KHCBA said, adding “Though everybody knows about the sources of their assets however, no one dares to ask them to surrender the same for the cause of common good, Geealni has in fact taken a bold and right step in the right direction which should prove an inspiration for others.”

Worth to mention that political leaders of Kashmir especially unionists have huge properties not only in the state but also in other parts of the world even they are not involved in any visible profitable business.

“The transfer of property is a historic decision and it should be seen as gesture of political character and enlarged contribution,” Nazir Ahmad, a university student posted his reaction on a social networking website. Nazir also writes, “But Geelani should attribute the proposed auditorium to Shaheed Shams-ul-Haq, instead of Allama Iqbal,” adding “The greatness of Allama is accepted all over the Muslim world but we need to highlight the heroes of our movement.”

According to Jama’at-e-Islami, Geelani has created a Trust of the property which does not belong to him, but only is registered in his name. “Jama’at has a huge immovable property in the shape of shops and buildings but in the names of different persons for obvious reasons, but that does not mean that all those persons who have been made the custodians of Jama’at property will create trusts on their own and transfer the property,” Jama’at said.

Residence of Syed Ali Geelani which has become a flash point between him and Jama’at-e-Islami
Residence of Syed Ali Geelani which has become a flash point between him and Jama’at-e-Islami.
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

Jama’at Chief, Mohammad Abdullah Wani confirmed that Jama’at has various properties across the state in the name of its members. “There is property in my name also but I am not the owner. It is Jama’at to whom people donate the property. We are just the custodians of the same.”

Jama’at faced ban on the government level for so many times and its assets were seized. Even at one point of time all the schools run by Jama’at were forcibly closed and the teachers working under its ‘Fallah-i-Aaam Trust’ were rehabilitated and appointed in government schools.

According to sources, Jama’at at one point of time in early nineties had opened a well versed medical institution at Dalgate, area of Srinagar and the main aim of that institution was to provide immediate medical aid to the victims of the turmoil. They added that the institution was called Kashmir Medical Trust (KMT) and a very loyal, dedicated and sincere Jama’at member Abdul Gaffar Sofi from Khulmula, Ganderbal was its care taker.

“Nobody knows what happened to KMT and the valuable machinery including a X-Ray machine, a well equipped Ambulance etc,” a Jama’at member said, and claimed “The Party owns major part of Iqbal Complex  Srinagar, near Chrar Adda, it had shops in Gogji Bagh area of the city” he added.

Jama’at was the lone socio political party whose members were targetted by forces during peak militancy in hundreds.

The counter insurgency forces like Ikhwan, had a single assignment to ‘curb’ Jama’at. Thousands of people belonging to Jama’at were displaced and they had to take shelter in Srinagar so that they could not become prey to the counter insurgency forces.

“It was Jama’at which was playing the basic role during the early nineties to promote the anti-India movement by calling it Jihad,” an old but retired basic member of Jama’at who now resides in Srinagar told Kashmir Life, adding “That is why we had to suffer by the hands of forces and their collaborators.” The old man, basically from south Kashmir, migrated and settled in Srinagar during 1995 said.

Geelani’s family sources told Kashmir life that Geelani bought his present Hyderpora property from one Mrs Abdul Rahman Mir of Beerwah, Budgam in 1995. “Late Mir was a retired police officer,” they added.  Geelani was financially assisted by some of his followers for the purpose. “Till August 1995, Geelani’s Hyderpora residence was the property of a retired police officer’s wife, Geelani bought it against a net payment and it was transferred to his name,” they said. They further said. “Jama’at is totally unaware about this so how can it now stake its claim.”

Ameer Jama’at -e-Islami J&K, M Abdullah Wani
Ameer Jama’at -e-Islami J&K, M Abdullah Wani

Geelani’s close aide, however, confirmed that Geelani’s first Srinagar residence situated at Bulbul Bagh, Barazulla is a property of Jama’at-e-Islami. “It seems Jama’at people have some misconceptions, and it is Barzulla property of which they are talking about,” he said, adding, “Jama’at has many assets registered in Geelani’s name including Barzalla house and four kanals of land somewhere in Srinagar and Sopore. Had Geelani developed any greed or ill will, he would have included that too in the Milli Trust, but he is ready to handover the same to Jama’at whenever asked.”

But Jama’at Chief (Ameer) Mohammad Abdullah Wani, claims that the Hyderpora property lying in the possession of Geelani, was purchased by Jama’at when late Hakeem Ghulam Nabi was heading the organization in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Hakeem sahib decided to handover the property to Geelani sahib as he was an important figure of Jamaat at that time. Even when he established Tehreek-e-Huriyat, Jama’at decided that the property will continue to remain in Geelani’s possession till he is alive and after that Jama’at will decide the further course,” Wani said.

Ameer-e-Jama’at claimed that he has all the legal and sound evidences that prove that the property donated by Geelani belongs to Jama’at. “When the income tax department raided Geelani’s residence and asked him to provide the details of his assets, Geelani vehemently argued that the property in his possession at Hydepora belongs to Jama’at, Wani said adding “Geelani Sahib’s statement is in the possession of the Income Tax department and we can get the same if need arises.”

Pertinently, Income Tax department on June 9, 2002 raided Geelani’s residence and slapped a fine on him. The residences of his close relatives were also raided and thoroughly searched.

Sources, however, told Kashmir Life that a close relative of Geelani visited Jama’at authorities just after the 2002 income tax raids and requested Jama’at to own Geelani’s Hyderpora property so that he may have some relief from the Income Tax Department. “But Jama’at people categorically rejected our request saying that they were not ready to share the controversy,” Geelani’s family sources told Kashmir Life adding, “If Hyderpora property belonged to Jama’at, why it did not gather courage to own it then.”

But Jama’at argues, “If the Hyderpora residence belonged to them why did they at all came to Jama’at and asked to claim it.”

However, Jama’at Chief stated that Geelani himself in several public rallies has mentioned that his property at Hyderpora belongs to Jama’at-e-Islami. “That is how most of the people came to know about the ownership of his Hyderpora residence.”

Syed Ali Geelani transferred ‘his property’ to an autonomous trust.   Pic: Bilal Bahadur
Syed Ali Geelani transferred ‘his property’ to an autonomous trust.
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

Kashmir Life met a number of senior Jama’at people and asked them  about any record which could prove that Majlis-e-Shora (Advisory committee) of Jama’at had ever passed any decision that the Hyderpora property which they claim now, has been kept under the custody of Geelani, there was none to confirm it.

The latest controversy between Geelani and Jama’at-e-Islami is about the Hyderpora residence of the octogenarian leader whose premises also house the head office of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.

Tehreek-e-Hurriyat was formed by Geelani after both, he and Jama’at had a consensus and in this regard a written agreement with Jama’at in 2003 came into being. But when Geelani’s biography authored by Mohammad Shafi Shariati hit the stands, Jama’at parted its way from Geelani to the extent that it withdrew from Hurriyat Conference led by Geelani.

Hurriyat (G) sources informed that its Majlis-e-Shoura (Advisory committee) more than once wrote to Jama’at and asked to end its continuous absence from the Hurriyat meetings. “But the letters were never answered,” they said.

On the contrary Jama’at never invited Geelani to attend the meetings of Jama’at keeping in view the fact that he (Geelani) is the senior most incumbent member of Jama’at.

Many say that there is a general feeling among the Jama’at cadre that it is an overt attempt on part of Geelani to transfer the property to his close associates and his heir apparent. “Geelan’s Trust is nothing but an attempt to transfer the property to his close associates and relatives”. “Milli Trust is comprised of his (Geelan’s) close relatives and aides only, Geelani sahib actually has transferred the property of Jama’at to Tehreek-e-Huriyat as all the trustees of Milli trust belong to Tehreek-e- Hurriyat,” they said.

Tehreek-e-Hurriyat was formed with due agreement between Geelani and Jama’at. “There is a written agreement between Geelani and Jama’at which is proof enough that Tehreek-e-Hurriyat has been formed mutually by Geelani and Jama’at, so according to the written agreement Tehreek-i-Hurriyat is part of Jama’at,” Tehreek-e-Hurriyat sources said.

Interestingly, Milli Trust has not disclosed its members till date but according to sources the Trust is comprised of nine members including Geelani as its Chairman. Sources said the other members and office bearers of the Trust included Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai (Vice Chairman), Pir Saifullah (Finance Secretary), Altaf Ahmad Shah (Secretary), Nayeem Geelani (Asst Publicity Secretary), Ayaz Akbar (Publicity Secretary), Mohammad Yousuf Mujahid (Assist Secretary), Mairaj ul din Kalwal (Assist Finanace Secretary) and Wali Mohammad Shah. Among the office bearers of the Trust, three are the basic members of Jama’at and they include Geelani, Sehrai and Shah.

Going through the statements and the fact that Jama’at convened meeting of its Majlis-e-Shoora, (Advisory body) to discuss the issue, Jama’at seems very concerned about the Hyderpora property and the organisation has decided to take “necessary steps to safeguard the same.”

Syed Ali Geelani transferred ‘his property’ to an autonomous trust.
Syed Ali Geelani transferred ‘his property’ to an autonomous trust.
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

“We do not mind about the property possessed by Geelani Sahab, which belongs to Jama’at-e-Islami, but we want to put the record clear and straight so that we are not held responsible by the future leadership of our organization,” Ameer-e-Jama’at told Kashmir Life.

Each and every member of Jama’at knows that Hyderpora property under the possession of Geelani belongs to Jama’at and now when Geelani Sahab has announced its transfer to some Trust it is important for us to clear the questions raising in the minds of Jama’at cadre. “Geelani Sahab should have consulted Jama’at before transferring the property to any Trust like an honest custodian,” Wani said adding “But alas! He failed.”

“Jama’at can pool property worth crores of Rupees in a single day but the matter is not all about the property alone.”

Wani elaborated, “we have learned a bitter lesson so now onwards we will register our whole organizational property in the name of Jama’at itself instead of individuals even if it falls in the hands of government.”

On the other hand Milli Trust is claiming that it is currently estimating the needs of orphans, helpless, widows and handicapped, it also has an educational policy in pipeline through which it will also ensure that children will be provided with standard education about the religion and other subjects. “During the first phase, for the purpose of freedom struggle, religion and society, a plan of constructing a big and expansive hall in the name of Allama Iqbal is being discussed and the work on it will be started in near future,” a spokesman of the trust said.

In past Mohammad Ramzan lone donated the property to Jammat at Soura, Srinagar. The property is registered in the name of former Ameer-e-Jama’at late Syed Sad-ud-din. Similarly, Jama’at has 100 kanlas of land that was donated by Peer Ghulam Mohammad Khan at Shopian, in south Kashmir which is registered in the name of Hakeem Abdul Rashid. “But he (Hakeem) doesn’t claim that it is his property,” said Wani adding “People donate for the cause of Islam and we cannot claim anything out of that.”

“In the same way the property of Hyderpora is no doubt registered in the name of Geelani but in actual it belongs to Jama’at and Geelani is its custodian, not the owner,” Ameer-e-Jama’at concluded.


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