A besieged burial ends an era of Kashmir’s history

As the evening slipped into darkness on 1 Septem-ber 2021, the rumors finally came to an end. Kash-mir’s most prominent resistance leader, the 91-year-old who defied New Delhi without ever changing his stance, Syed Ali Shah Geelani was dead.

While the word spread across the villages and cities of the conflict-ridden valley, a gloom took over. With the grief of his loss, the valley was also standing on the brink of a breakpoint.

The state faced a crucial question: how to bury him without a mass funeral? For Geelani, who had been off from the public eye in recent years, the death came in desolation. There was no mass funeral. No sloganeering. No flags. No spectacle of mourning. But a siege.

Geelani spent several years in various Indian jails after the former legislator gave up electoral politics and spearheaded the political wing of aspirations of Kashmir’s self-determination – becoming its supreme figure.For most of the last decade, he remained under house arrest.

On the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday, a heavy contingent of government forces prevented people from reaching his home.

On Wednesday late night, by 11 pm, the gov-ernment forces were ordered to lay a siege in the valley — especially Srinagar, and turn Geelani’s neighbourhood into a fortress, guarded by more than a thousand personnel of the government forces.

Plastic barricades and concertina wire rolls were set up on the road that goes towards the Srinagar airport — and an alley on the road leads to Geelani’s resi-dence.

As journalists, including me, reached Hyder-pora, we faced the heavily armed contingent. Stand-ing outside Jamia Masjid in Hyderpora that has a patch of land as a graveyard on its right side, dozens of police vehicles passed by.

A police inspector said, “He will be buried here.” And not in the his-toric Martyr’s Graveyard, in Eidgah, as per Gee-lani’s last wish, as per his family.