Indian police videos of Kashmir leader’s funeral stir fresh anger

Indian security forces have maintained a lockdown across Kashmir in the wake of the death of a prominent separatist leader (AFP/Tauseef MUSTAFA)

Indian security forces maintained an armed guard around the grave of a Kashmir separatist leader on Tuesday, amid mounting public anger over police footage of his funeral, which his family said they were barred from attending.

Indian authorities have imposed a security clampdown in the contested Himalayan region since the death of Syed Ali Geelani, a leading separatist voice over the past five decades, last week at the age of 92.

His family say the separatist icon’s body was forcibly taken away and buried in the middle of the night and his sons were kept away from the last rites and burial.

Police have denied the accusations, but faced fresh outrage after posting video on Twitter Monday showing Geelani’s body being washed, wrapped in a shroud and buried.

Fearing protests, his grave in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar is under armed guard and visitors are not allowed.

Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam, the most senior Islamic jurist in Indian Kashmir, which is also claimed by Pakistan, condemned the police action as “un-Islamic”.

He told AFP the body of a deceased person must be respected even if it is a “criminal sentenced to death”.

“I think his family is hurt and the people of Kashmir are hurt. Police should apologise for doing this,” the jurist said.

Police issued the clips after a video widely shared on social media showed Geelani’s body, wrapped in a Pakistan flag, being taken away by armed police as his family scuffled with police.

Security forces then issued a statement saying Geelani’s sons initially agreed to a quick funeral but changed their minds “probably under the pressure from Pakistan” and “started resorting to anti-national activities.”

It added that “after persuasion”, Geelani’s relatives brought the body to the graveyard “and performed last rites with due respect.” It did not name which relatives were present.

Indian authorities cut mobile signal and the internet across Kashmir following Geelani’s death — services that have only begun coming back online since Sunday.

Geelani was once head of the Hurriyet Conference, an influential coalition of Kashmir separatist groups.

The Conference announced on Tuesday that Masarat Alam Bhat, a resistance leader who has been in an Indian jail since 2010, had been named as the new head of the coalition.

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