Syed Ali Geelani
If you were to read the Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi’s biography, you will conclude that he lived his life as a rebel. Back home in Hyderpora, the diehard followers of the detention-hardened patriarch term him Kashmir’s answer to Garibaldi—owing to his long, unfaltering ‘run of the rebel’. The octogenarian Hurriyat chief famous for his defiance is now a doctor!
But years before the Mirpur University could confer its top title to Kashmir’s “rebel repository”, the September 1929-born Syed Ali Geelani finished his studies from Lahore’s Oriental College. For the man who calls Islamist leader-founder of Jama’at-e-Islami, Abul A’la Maududi as his mentor, politics became an obvious career choice amid tumultuous state of affairs prevailing in Kashmir.
The young Geelani driven by a sense of romanticism for Kashmir cause was seen rubbing shoulders with who’s who of the Plebiscite Movement at its nerve-centre, Mujahid Manzil.
Once done with his stint in unionist politics “for a cause”, the Geelani known for his politics of defiance became the “archduke of Kashmir struggle”. But it was never easy for the man to go against the wind. His “anti-India” activities not only cost him his passport, but also his ‘freedom’. It is said that except his Hajj pilgrimage in 2006, he hasn’t been allowed to leave India.
Over the years, the establishment has tightened its noose over the man. A rusty police van stationed in front of his Hyderpora residence made him a ‘thought prisoner’ in his own home for years, before his ill health drove cops away.
Geelani suffers from an acute chest infection besides diagnosed with renal cancer. To treat his health condition, he was to travel to either UK or US in 2007. But, his visa request was rejected by the US government citing his criticism of US policy of war in Iraq.
But that’s not all about the Hyderpora headman. His life journey is embedded with intrigue, incitement and inspiration. Geelani’s strike-shutdown strategy often evokes mixed response from public. Even Delhi accuses the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat founder for inciting violence in the region. But Geelani says he is only fighting for Kashmir’s right of self-determination. He openly states that he is not Indian and that travelling on Indian passport is every Kashmiri’s compulsion—as Kashmir is a globally-accepted disputed region.
All this make his followers to strike an uncanny similarity between Geelani and Garibaldi. Akin to the Italian general, Geelani is a central figure in his region’s resistance movement. And this is enough to trigger a popular chorus in his rarely permitted rallies: “Na Jhukne Wala, Geelani! Na Bikne Wala, Geelani!”