Davood Peer: Geelani’s journey from nondescript Dour village in picturesque Sopore valley, to posh uptown Hyderpora’s Tehreek-e-Hurriyat office in Srinagar, is dotted with life-changing events, spanning over six decades. But where and how did it all start? In 1949, then five, Sehrais two elder brothers joined Jamaat-e-Islami as its basic members and started visiting organization’s district office . There they came in contact with Jamats district head (Amir-e-Zila), a young orator with extraordinary motivational skills. He was Syed Ali Geelani. Whenever Geelani would visit Lolab, where he had relatives, he used to visit Sehrai’s house as well to meet his newly christened Jamati brothers. “Geelani started visiting his (Sehrais) house for his party-related works. That is how they met.

With no road connectivity with Kupwara town then, one had to walk his way through mountains into Lolab valley’s Tekipora village, godforsaken place in those days. “Geelani would often stay at his home for a few days whenever in Lolab. Initially, Geelani’s visits to Tekipora and other parts of Lolab valley used to be for the propagation of Jamat’s ideology. “But, later he also used to visit for sake of his bonding with Sehrais family . After Sehrai appeared in his class 10 examination, Geelani came to his house and asked him to teach at a Jamat run seminary in Sopore till his results are out. “I was not sure if I could teach as I was too young,” recalls Sehrai. “But he (Geelani) succeeded in convincing him and his brothers.” Before Sherai left for Sopore to formally join Jamats Darsgah, the seminary, his widowed mother took Geelani aside and said: Yih haz chuie hawal (I am putting him in your custody). “Since that day he is with me as my friend and companion,” said Geelani .

In December 1963, Kashmir was literally on the edge after the mysterious disappearance of Moi-e-Muqaddas (holy relic) from Hazratbal shrine. Within days it created a storm of sorts as around fifty thousand people, carrying black flags marched towards the shrine. To press the government for the relic’s recovery, Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq formed Moi-e-Muqadas Majlis-e-Amal, an amalgam of different parties including Jamat-e-Islami, Jamiat-e-Ahlehadees and other religious parties. At first, their aim was to ensure the return of the holy relic, but once it was returned in January 1964, a part of the amalgam started supporting Sheikh Abdullah’s boycott call against Congress in Kashmir. “The boycott call was so effective that local Congressmen couldn’t even move out of their homes. “When Mir Qasims mother died, almost nobody attended her funeral.” Enraged by the support Sheikh Abdullah received from different quarters, Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq, the then Prime Minister of Kashmir, ordered the arrest of all people supporting the boycott. “Immediately police started arresting people associated with Moi-e-Muqadas Majlis-e-Amal . As Jamat was part of the amalgam, its cadres too were arrested. “ The first phase of arrests started on January 26, 1965, A teacher at a Jamat-run school in Baramulla then, Sehrai received a letter from Jamats Srinagar office instructing him to speak against the arrests during Friday prayers. “After he offered prayers at Pattan mosque, he gave a strong speech against the arrests . The same day, at around midnight, a loud knock at the landlord’s door, where Sehrai was putting up in Baramulla, woke everyone inside the house. “Two Jamat members from the local seminary came with the news that police is looking for him . “They told him that his speech at Pattan has enraged people in power in Srinagar.
when geelani first stepped inside the Central Jail Srinagar, he had no idea he would be kept for such a long time. “He had just packed a few clothes when he was arrested. “But his main companion inside were his books.” One book in particular that influenced Geelani during his early years of incarceration was Zar-e-Gul by Pakistani author Kausar Niazi. “He had bought this book from Baramulla. And with ample free time in jail he had almost memorised it. On March 19, 2018, after almost seven decades of friendship, a frail but resolute Geelani passed on the charge of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat to Sehrai, during a small ceremony held inside his Hyderpora residence, where he remains under detention since 2010. “He still recall his mother’s words: Yi haz chuie hawaal (I put him in your custody),” quoted Geelani . But Geelani was confident that Sehrai’s experience and political acumen, and a long illustrious life full of hardships, will come in handy in facing any situation. “I am sure he will prove to be an able leader if he is supported by the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat cadre,” said Geelani. However, both Geelani and Sehrai know that countering alternative narratives and politics of flags, which have emerged in the past few years and gained some support among a section of youth, is not an easy job. “This challenge comes from within and not from outside. That is why it is more dangerous . But with less than a week in Kashmir’s most powerful chair, Geelani has already made his intent clear. “We won’t remain mute spectators,” he tells a small audience sitting inside his tiny office at Hyderpora .
May Allah (SWT) make his grave one of the gardens of Jannah. It is a fact that we all have to return to Him one day. May Allah (SWT) help us all in utilizing each moment in the best possible way.

( Note : The information here has been taken from a interview between Geelani and sehrai ) .

Davood Peer:  writer is an student activist and can be reached at davoodpeer134@gmail.com