Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir have indicted family members of late resistance leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani under an anti-terrorism law for wrapping his body in the Pakistani flag and waving anti-Indian slogans, said Sunday officials.
Geelani, who died Wednesday at the age of 91, was a leading figure in Kashmir’s mistrust of 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 tore his body from the house. Police have denied this as “baseless rumors” by “certain special interests”.
A video widely shared on social media reportedly showed Geelani’s relatives, mostly women, frantically trying to prevent armed police from forcibly entering the room where his body, wrapped in a Pakistani flag, was kept. It showed women crying and screaming as the police took the body and locked her family and loved ones in the room.
Police said unspecified family members and others were charged on Saturday under the Illegal 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 an individual as a terrorist. Police can detain a person for six months without producing evidence, and the accused can subsequently be jailed for up to seven years. Rights activists have said the law is draconian.
Naseem said on Sunday that a police officer visited the family on Saturday and informed them that a case had been registered. Naseem did not provide further details of the meeting, but said there were scuffles when police removed his father’s body.
“In the midst of the chaos, we didn’t really know what was going on. We were in mourning, ”he said.
Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan, which administer parts of the Himalayan region while claiming it entirely.
Geelani spearheaded the Kashmir movement for the right to self-determination and was a strong supporter of the merger of Kashmir with Pakistan. For many in Kashmir and beyond, he was an enduring emblem of defiance against India.
India describes the armed rebellion as Islamabad’s proxy war and state sponsored terrorism. Most Muslim Kashmiris see this as a legitimate struggle for freedom and support the unification of the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
The region is one of the most militarized in the world. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.
Tensions erupted in the region in 2019 after New Delhi stripped Kashmir’s semi-autonomy, removed its statehood, and removed legacy protections over land and jobs.