SAR Geelani is no longer with us, but his spirit lives on


Kashmiri journalist Junaid Dar pays homage to Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani.


“Inalilahi wainailaihi Ranjioon-Indeed, to God we belong and to God, we shall return”.


Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani, popularly known as S-A-R Geelani, a former Professor at Zakir Hussain College of Delhi University breathed his last breath on Thursday, while the sun faded out in New Delhi, India. He dreamt of winning the battle against the authoritarian government in a democratic state and to see peace and freedom in Kashmir. His body is no longer with us, but his life, his words, and his spirit will forever be part of the story of Kashmir.


Geelan was accused of the 2001 parliament attack and was sentenced to the death penalty, despite no concrete evidence against him. He was accused alongside fellow Kashmiri Afzal Guru. Guru was ultimately hung in the Tihar jail, even as the Indian Supreme Court noted the lack of sufficient evidence against him. Geelani was acquitted in 2003 because of the lack of evidence against him.


His love for Kashmir and the pain and suffering he endured, was always clear on his face.


I spoke with him in Jantar Mantar just before he died. We were at an event organized by activists from Punjab and Tamil Nadu who were protesting in solidarity with Kashmir. Sikh and Tamil activists welcomed him with great respect. Youth lined up, waiting to shake his hand, their smartphones ready to capture the special moment.


SAR Geelani with Sikh protestors at a rally for Kashmir in Delhi.


Geelani said to me, “They are arresting Kashmiris without any check, jails in Kashmir are overcrowded, there is no space for more arrested people, and now they are shifting them to outside jails of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

He resented the media clampdown in the region and said the government had turned Kashmir into an open prison, where more than eighty lakh people are locked and can’t move freely.

Geelani explained the failings of the Indian judiciary in Kashmir, “From whom you expect justice here, even judiciary has failed to deliver justice to the minors who are being tortured and booked under draconian laws.”

He understood better than anyone how it feels to live a life inside the four walls, where you’re surveilled continuously. Even after his release from Tihar jail in 2003, he continued to be targeted.

He was shot five times outside his lawyer’s residence on the night of February 08, 2005. Miraculously, he survived. In an interview with a Kashmir based magazine, Geelani said the murder attempt was organized by the state to silence the voice of dissent.

Ever since the attack, he carried three bullets in his body very close to his heart. It would be no surprise if this was the reason his sudden cardiac arrest.

In 2016 he was arrested again. This time for organizing an event at the Press Club of India and allegedly raising slogans in favor of Afzal Guru. He was booked for sedition charges and was later released.

About the scrapping of Article 370 by the Indian authorities, he said, “Now that article 370 [the only constitutional thread between India and Kashmir that validated accession] has been removed, Kashmiris have only one way, that is the fight for right to self determination and freedom.”



He told me, the “UN had made promises to Kashmiris and it is the correct time to fulfill those promises and implement UN resolution, it is the responsibility of the international community to make it possible.”

It is said that, “God favors the bold.”

To me, Geelani is the personification of this saying. He never stopped fighting for Kashmir.

Among the last words Geelani said to me were, “Kashmiris need to fight their battle themselves without relying on or expecting support from anyone, we should be determinant towards our goal.”

Many people in Kashmir may not even know about his death because of the internet blockade which has been in place for more than 80 days.

Their voices are being suppressed by the state. The loss of a man whose presence and voice gave voice to so many Kashmiris could not be felt more deeply at this time. Geelani spent a lifetime speaking out and risking his life for those who are. breathing under the shadow of guns and curfews.

“Inalilahi wainailaihi Ranjioon-Indeed, to God we belong and to God, we shall return”.

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