India: late Kashmiri leader's family faces terrorism charges

Relatives of resistance leader Syed Ali Geelani were charged for raising anti-India slogans and wrapping his body in the Pakistani flag

Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir filed terrorism charges against family members of late resistance leader Syed Ali Geelani for raising anti-India slogans and wrapping his body in the Pakistani flag, officials said on Sunday.

Geelani, who died on Wednesday aged 91, was the emblem of Kashmir's defiance against New Delhi and had been under house arrest for years.

His son, Naseem, said Indian authorities buried Geelani in a local cemetery without any family members present after police snatched his body from his home. Police said the accusations were “baseless rumours” by “some vested interests”.

A video widely shared on social media purportedly showed Geelani’s relatives, mostly women, frantically trying to prevent armed police from forcing their way into the room where his body, wrapped in a Pakistani flag, was being kept. It showed women wailing and screaming as police took the body and locked his family and relatives inside the room.

Police said some of Geelani's family members and others were charged on Saturday under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. They have not yet been taken into custody.

The anti-terrorism law was amended in 2019 to allow the government to designate a person as a terrorist. Police can detain a person for six months without producing any evidence, while a conviction carries a prison term of up to seven years. Rights activists have called the law draconian.

Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan, which administer parts of the Himalayan region while claiming it entirely.

Geelani spearheaded Kashmir's movement for the right to self-determination and was a staunch proponent of merging Kashmir with Pakistan.

Rebels have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. The region is one of the most heavily militarised in the world. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.

Meanwhile, authorities on Sunday eased some restrictions that were imposed after Geelani's death, allowing some private vehicles on roads and vendors to operate in some parts of Srinagar, Kashmir's main city.

Mobile phone services were restored late on Friday but restrictions on mobile internet and freedom of movement continued in many parts of the Kashmir Valley.

Updated: September 5th 2021, 9:48 AM
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