Defiant Geelani; 11 Years of relentless siege.

Syed Ali Geelani is a central vanguard in Kashmir’s “War of Liberation” movement. Born and brought up in northern Kashmir’s Bandipora district in September 1929, Geelani’s life is embedded with incitement, fascination and inspiration.

His long, unfaltering stance on the Kashmir resistance for Liberation, over the years, has earned him the title of “The Leader of the Resistance” in Kashmir.Geelani’s defiance, despite his frail health, against the Indian military occupation and for the freedom of his people has led him to sacrifice his own freedom for the Kashmiri people.

Over the years Geelani has spent over a decade of his life in jail while for over a decade the Indian establishment has curtailed his movement restricting him to his “home turned into detention center (sub jail)” in Hyderpora, Srinagar.

Geelani continues to remain confined in “house jail” since October 10, 2009 and till date has not enjoyed a fortnight of free air outside his “home”.

A police truck outside Geelani’s house remains deployed permanently and has been converted into a makeshift bedroom for cops.

Article 43 of the Fourth Geneva Convention provides that any person interned or placed in assigned residence is entitled to have such decision reconsidered as soon as possible by an appropriate court or administrative board and if the decision is maintained to have it reviewed periodically, and a least twice yearly[1]

Article 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention provides that decisions regarding assigned residence or internment in occupied territory must be made according to a regular procedure to be prescribed by the occupying power in accordance with the provisions of the Convention. It also provides that such decision is subject to an appeal to be decided with the least possible delay. If the appeal is upheld it must be subject to periodical review, if possible every six months, by a competent body set up by the occupying power[2].

The nonagenarian leader challenged his illegal detention before the High Court by way of multiple writ petitions.

In 2009 Geelani was booked under Public Safety Act,1978  (A detention without trial) which was quashed by the Hon’ble High Court in Habeas corpus petition no. 128/2009 dated 11th August 2009.

Soon after quashing his detention Geelani was arrested again in an old case pertaining to the year 1985 which was challenged by petition 516-A Criminal procedure code[3] before the High Court.

The Court in petition no. 79/09 led by Chief Justice Baren Gosh passed the order directing the respondent State to release Geelani after furnishing a bail bond of Rs 20,000. The CJ furthermore stated that the petitioner is about 80 years old and is a patient, suffering from multiple ailments keeping him inside custody shall be more detrimental for his health.

Despite the directions passed by the Chief Justice on October 9, 2009 Geelani was not released by the state regime which constrained Geelani to file contempt against court order.

Geelani, through his advocates, filed a contempt petition (388/2009) for violations of the court order.

On November 11, the High Court directed the Inspector General of Police Kashmir to file a detailed report.

The IG in its report said that Geelani is a freeman and can go anywhere he wishes to.

Despite that on the same day, Geelani attempted to go to Kashmir University for a peaceful political gathering and he was detained by the state police and nobody was allowed to visit his residence.

This made it evident that the state clearly violated the orders passed on 23rd of October 2009 by Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir Justice Baren Gosh directing police authorities the movement of petitioner shall not be interfered by the state.

During the same year, on November 9 2009, the High Court appointed a commission to visit the residence of Geelani and the nearby residential houses of locality to get a firsthand appraisal after Geelani filed a contempt petition no 388/2009 saying that his movement was restricted despite the court orders.

The commissioner visited the residential house of Geelani and recorded the statement of the petitioner and seven respected citizens of the locality whereby the commissioner submitted the status report enunciating:

“My Lord, on the basis of the statements of witnesses recorded in particular the statement of the independent witnesses i.e. the neighbors of Syed Ali Geelani and Ghulam Qadir, Hurriyat Conference/CID No 1661 and under the circumstances, the irresistible conclusion to be drawn in that Syed Ali Geelani is no more a free man.”

The status report was filed on November 10, 2009.

Geelani is on pacemaker since 1997. In 2003, his left kidney was removed at Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai as it had developed carcinoma. In 2004, his gall bladder was removed at Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi. He was again operated upon in 2007 and half of his right kidney was removed. In 2008, a new pacemaker was installed at Escorts Heart Institute Delhi. In 2010, his eyes were operated upon at Apollo Hospital in Delhi.

In 2010 Geelani’s health deteriorated and desperately needed medical attention. However, the state rejected his pleas to move to a hospital and instead was provided a doctor who would check him up at his residence. For the complete year in 2010 Geelani remained under house detention which resulted in serious health complications.

Geelani filed section 491-A CRPC[4] (Habeas Corpus) through his counsel before the High Court. The court passed the order on May 26, 2010 pointing out

“having the regard to the submission made by learned counsel for the petitioner that the detune Syed Ali Geelani, is critically ill and in need of urgent medical treatment, Director Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science (SKIMS), Soura Srinagar shall depute a team of Doctors of the Institute, comprising of a Physician Specialist, Nephrologists and Cardiologist to examine the detune, administer required medical treatment”.

Same year Geelani attempted to go out from his residential house to offer mandatory congregational Friday prayers at a local Masjid, however, as soon as he ventured out of his main gate, the police, deployed there in strength arrested Geelani and shifted him to concerned police station in Humhama.

The High Court while hearing the case next day of his arrest in habeas corpus petition passed the order on May 28, 2010 stating that having regard to the contention of counsel the state shall respond to the statement made by the petitioner’s counsel and the movement of the detune ie ingress into and egress from his residential house shall not be interfered with by the respondents unless the respondents have a lawful authority to restrict such movement and interference is made strictly in accordance with such authority.

The directions passed by High Court were never respected by the state officials leading to an understanding that with their own deliberations the “rule of law” is the concept within their personal domain. To respect the “rule of law” and to adhere with it was always decided by the Director General of Police in Jammu And Kashmir State.

Syed Ali Geelani challenged his illegal detention several times before the court of law.

The High Court announced a detailed Judgment in HCP No. 148/2011 on June 10, 2011 where the Court comprising of Justice Ghulam Hasnain Masoodi expressly pointed that the issue of Syed Ali Geelani as of curtailment of his life and personal liberty which is core concept of Indian Constitution and commanded the state authorities that they shall not impose restrictions on the movement of Geelani with such frequency as would amount to his detention rather than placing restrictions temporarily on his movement and his right to receive and interact with his relations, friends and acquaintances who propose to visit him.

However, the state authorities are hell bent to keep court orders in cold storage as Geelani is not allowed to go out, even not allowed to perform religious obligations.

Geelani filed another contempt against the order dated June 10, 2011 passed by High Court wherein the court found “illegal detention” of Geelani at home without a reason and violation of life and liberty of petitioner.

The contempt petition no 11/2013 was agreed by the counsel of the parties before justice Virender Singh who reserved the petition for more than 3 months and passed the order in a judgment on December 31, 2013. Justice Singh initiated contempt proceedings against the state and its functionaries and enunciated that “thus the petition on hand merits dismissal being divided at any merit in it.”

In a case of Torres Ramírez v. Uruguay

The need for a valid reason for the deprivation of liberty concerns both the initial reason for such deprivation and the continuation of such deprivation. Detention which continues beyond that provided for by law is a violation of the principle of legality and amounts to arbitrary detention. This point was made by the UN Human Rights Committee and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in cases concerning persons who continued to be detained despite an order for their release[5].

Since 2010 Geelani has continuously remained detained at his home in Hyderpora barring a few hours of free air when he is taken to different hospitals for treatment.

In 2014, when the Omar Abdullah led government in the state was in its last leg, and preparations for the elections were at peak, Geelani was allowed to attend a few free days.

Geelani attended some public rallies in Shopian and in Sopore which saw massive participation of people. Soon afterwards Geelani was again restricted at his home and since then lives within the four wall of his house compound.

In 2013 after Geelani was allowed a free movement of one week, in an interview Geelani had revealed that he was always skeptical about his release and always expected to be rearrested by Indian authorities after witnessing his reach to the people. The next day he was again put under house detention.

Since 2016, after Geelani led a massive anti-India uprising in Kashmir, the state authorities have also denied entry of media personnel into the Geelani’s residence.

“You cannot go inside. First seek permission from DGP (Director General of Police),” one of the cops posted outside the fortified house at Hyderpora told a journalist in December 2016[6]

An armored vehicle of paramilitary CRPF remains mounted with hi-tech cameras and a police truck has blocked the entrance to the leader’s residence.

Many journalists who have one the years attempted to meet Geelani were asked by the cops outside his residence that they will have to seek a written permission from the DGP[7].

In December 2016, a local newspaper Greater Kashmir correspondent contacted some senior police officers for a permission to interview Geelani and he was told: “DGP looks after the issue[8].” 

In an interview to a local newspaper, Geelani son Naeem Geelani said: “The fact is that Geelani sahib is not even allowed to offer congregational Friday prayers. Neither has not been allowed to attend marriage ceremonies of his grandchildren over the years nor has he been allowed to attend the funeral meetings.[9]” 

During the last nearly a decade, illegal confinement of Geelani has taken heavy toll on his health. For even conducting his medical tests in hospitals, his relatives have to seek permission from police. The cops even accompany him to diagnostic laboratories and hospitals.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European and American Conventions on Human Rights provide that no one may be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.[10] The European Convention on Human Rights spells out the grounds on which a person may be deprived of his or her liberty.[11] In its General Comment on Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (concerning states of emergency), the UN Human Rights Committee stated that States parties may “in no circumstances” invoke a state of emergency “as justification for acting in violation of humanitarian law or peremptory norms of international law, for instance … through arbitrary deprivations of liberty”[12] The prohibition of arbitrary arrest or detention is also set forth in other international instruments[13]

Legal forum for oppressed Voices of Kashmir (LFOVK) expresses it deep concern about the ongoing detention and denial of effective medical care to Mr. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, which put his health at serious risk. Accordingly, the LFOVK urges International committee of Red Cross (ICRC) to depute its team to Residence of Mr. Geelani, which has official been converted to Sub Jail by Indian establishment.

Meanwhile United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention should take cognizance of this matter and demand India to release Syed Ali Geelani immediately and unconditionally, as his detention seems to only aim at sanctioning his activities amidst a wave of increasing repression against population of Occupied Kashmir.

 Advocate Nasir Qadri

The author is pursuing his research degree on Law of Armed Conflict and heads LFOVK.

[1 Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 43

[2] Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 78

[3] Section 561-A Criminal procedure code; inherent power of the High Court Division to make such orders as may

be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.

[4] Section 491-A of JK criminal procedure code; Power to issue directions of the nature of a habeas corpus

[5] William Torres Ramirez v. Uruguay, Communication No. R. 1/4, U.N. Doc. Supp. No. 40 (A/35/40) at 121 (1980).

[6] Geelani’s house out-of- bounds for local journalists, civilians “You cannot go inside .Greater Kashmir December 23,2016 Available at this link.

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

[9] ibid

[10] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9(1) Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 37(b) American Convention on Human Rights, Article 7(3) ;African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 6

[11] European Convention on Human Rights, Article 5(1)

[12] UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 29 (Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

[13] See, e.g., Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Article 

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