SRINAGAR, India (AP) – Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir initiated a case against family members of the late resistance leader Syed Ali …
SRINAGAR, India (AP) – Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir have opened a case against family members of the late resistance leader Syed Ali Geelani under a harsh anti-terrorism law for allegedly raising slogans against India and wrapping his body in the Pakistani flag, officials said Sunday.
Geelani, who died Wednesday at the age of 91, was the symbol of Kashmir’s defiance of New Delhi and had been under house arrest for years.
His son, Naseem, said Indian authorities buried Geelani’s body in a local cemetery with no family members present after police snatched his body from the home. Police denied it, calling it “baseless rumors” of “some interests”.
A video widely shared on social media reportedly showed Geelani’s relatives, mostly women, frantically trying to prevent armed police from forcing themselves into the room where his body, wrapped in a Pakistani flag, was kept. It showed women crying and screaming as police took the body and locked his family and relatives inside the room.
Police said they registered a case against unspecified family members and some others on Saturday and began investigating the case under the Law on Illegal Activities (Prevention). They have not yet been remanded in custody. Critics say such police cases are sometimes silenced or intimidate opposing voices.
The Anti-Terrorism Act was amended in 2019 to allow the government to designate an individual as a terrorist. Police can detain a person for six months without providing evidence, and the accused can subsequently be jailed for up to seven years. Rights activists have called the law draconian.
Geelani’s son Naseem said on Sunday that a police officer visited the family on Saturday and informed them that a case had been registered. Naseem did not provide further information about the meeting, but said there were fights when police removed his father’s body.
“In the middle of the chaos, we did not really know what was happening. We mourned, ”said Naseem.
Kashmir has long been a hotspot between India and Pakistan, which manages parts of the Himalayan region, while claiming it entirely.
Geelani spearheaded Kashmir’s movement for the right to self-determination and was a staunch advocate of merging Kashmir with Pakistan. For many in Kashmir and beyond, he was a lasting icon of defiance against India.
India describes the armed uprising as Islamabad’s proxy war and state-sponsored terrorism. Most Muslim Kashmiris see it as a legitimate freedom struggle and support the rebels’ goal of unifying the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan lamented India’s removal and hasty burial of Geelani’s body as well as the case against the family, calling it “shameful” in a tweet Sunday.
Rebels have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. The region is one of the most heavily militarized in the world. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the raging conflict.
Tensions flared up in the region in 2019 after New Delhi removed Kashmir’s semi-autonomy, abolished its state and removed hereditary protections on land and jobs. Authorities have since brought a lot of new laws that critics and many Kashmiris fear could change the region’s demographics.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, authorities eased some restrictions that had been imposed since Geelani’s death, allowing private vehicles on roads and dealers to operate in some parts of Srinagar. Most shops and businesses, however, remained closed as government forces patrolled roads and streets in the city.
Mobile phones were restored late Friday, but mobile internet and restrictions on people gathering continued in many parts of the Kashmir Valley.
Paramilitary soldiers remained stationed outside the cemetery where Geelani was buried.
Ruwa Shah, Geelani’s granddaughter, wrote on Twitter that they were horrified by “what followed after our old man died.” His “home was a prison for over a decade, and now his cemetery is also a prison,” she said.
Follow Aijaz Hussain on Twitter at twitter.com/hussain_aijaz
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