Geelani’s death comes days after speculation of an imminent ban on both factions of the Hurriyat had led to a signboard of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat being hurriedly removed from the annexe of his family home. In a way, it seemed to mark the passing of the Hurriyat mantle to the other faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who remained defiant amid murmurs of a ban.
PDP chief and former CM Mehbooba Mufti was the first mainstream politician from J&K to condole the separatist leader’s death. “Saddened by the news of Geelani sahab’s passing away. We may not have agreed on most things but I respect him for his steadfastness & standing by his beliefs,” she tweeted.
Saddened by the news of Geelani sahab’s passing away. We may not have agreed on most things but I respect him for h… https://t.co/aFzIu1GN3X
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) 1630518618000
One Twitter user described Geelani as “a man of commitment” who “remained true to the cause of liberation”.
In his political avatar, Geelani was a three-time MLA from Sopore constituency – in 1972, 1977 and 1987. But it was as chairman of the influential All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a conglomerate of pro-separatist organisations, that he wielded the most clout.
Although never out of the separatist framework, Geelani may have become less of a force after the Hurriyat split in 2003. He subsequently founded the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, which remained a strident pro-Pakistan voice through decades of violence by armed terror outfits in the Valley.
Geelani had called for a total boycott of the 2014 assembly elections in J&K, rejecting PDP and the then National Conference government’s proposals for greater autonomy. The polls saw a 65% turnout, the highest in 25 years.