Most of the communication channels, including cell phones and mobile internet, have been suspended in the disputed region. New Delhi anticipated public unrest in light of Kashmiri seperatist Syed Ali Geelani's demise.
A massive clampdown on physical movement was imposed in India-administered Kashmir and most forms of communication channels were severed to prevent people from gathering in large numbers for the funeral of the region's 91-year-old separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, who passed away on the late evening of September 1.
Geelani passed away due to a prolonged illness at his Srinagar residence at around 10:00 pm.
The family alleged the Indian police "snatched" the body of Geelani and conducted the funeral rites in the absence of his family members.
His family members told TRT World that Geelani's wish was to be buried at the Martyrs Graveyard in Srinagar, but the Indian authorities buried him in a grave near his current residence in Srinagar's Hyderpora area.
The Martyrs graveyard is in Eidgah, which is around 12 kilometres away from Hyderpora. It is the burial place of hundreds of people killed in anti-India militancy and protests in the last three decades.
"Geelani Sahab's last wish was to be buried in Eidgah but police had conveyed to us that they will not allow this. After he passed away last night, the police arrived and demanded that we bury him immediately. We told the police we were waiting for some relatives to arrive so they could offer their final respect. We even assured them he will be buried at 6 am but the police forced their entry and snatched the body. When we resisted we were manhandled, " said a family member requesting anonymity.
Geelani's son Naseem told AFP that the family "heard later that police undertook washing rituals for my father's body and had him buried."
While speaking to the media gathered outside Geelani's residence, Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar said, "We will not allow any outsider to come. Only relatives and those living closeby will be allowed [to attend the funeral]."
However Geelani's family claimed they were not allowed to move out of the house after authorities had taken his body into their possession.
"We wanted to be part of his final journey. When we tried to move out, the police blocked all entries. Later we were informed that he had been buried in the nearby graveyard with the help of some members of the local mosque committee. He was buried at around 4 am," the family member said.
Dilbag Singh, Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police did not take calls made by TRT World for comment.
In response to the allegations made by Geelani's family, the Kashmir police later issued a statement through their official Twitter account quoting Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar.
"Reported allegations against Police are baseless. In fact, Police facilitated in bringing dead-body from house to graveyard as there was apprehension that miscreants might take undue advantage of the situation. Relatives participated in last rites" IGP Kumar was quoted in a tweet sent out by the police.
Meanwhile, a severe clampdown was imposed by the Indian government in much of the Kashmir Valley hours before the break of dawn on Thursday.
Minutes before the news of Geelani's death circulated in Srinagar, the Indian authorities were quick to deploy thousands of soldiers at multiple locations in the Kashmir Valley, anticipating the arrival of large crowds for the funeral of the departed leader.
Internet and calling facilities on all service providers barring government-owned telecommunications service BSNL, remained suspended since Thursday morning, locals said.
Hundreds of police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed at the Hyderpora -Peerbagh road, which connects Srinagar's only airport to the entire Valley and was home to Geelani for the past three decades.
The streets and roads leading up to his residence have however now been barricaded and dozens of policemen have blocked all entries to the leader's home and former office of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, a political grouping that espouses the disputed region's merger with Pakistan.
"Unaware of what had transpired in the night, some shopkeepers, milk sellers and bakers, had arrived to open shop. The shopkeepers learnt of Geelani Sahab's demise through the police and they were weeping by the roadside. They were told to return home by the police," a local told TRT World.
A senior government official, requesting anonymity said: "The situation is tense but under control for now. There were few incidents of minor violence that took place early in the morning but they too have been controlled".
Other senior government officials told TRT World that the situation in Kashmir will remain "sensitive" for the next few weeks. "There are many mischievous elements who will try to stoke trouble and disturb the peace. The government will not allow this," said a senior government official.
Geelani was considered one of the most influential seperatist leaders of the disputed region. Active in politics since he was a student, Geelani was a lifelong member of Jamaat-e-Islami and had participated and won legislative assembly elections on three occasions between 1972-1987.
After the 1987 elections, which were widely claimed to have been rigged, many senior politicians including Geelani decided to boycott polls in the region while others decided to pick up arms against the Indian state.
A thorn in the side for New Delhi
Geelani went on to found the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) a conglomerate of political groups seeking either Kashmir's independence or its merger with Pakistan.
In 2003, Geelani left APHC after he alleged some of the members had floated proxy candidates in assembly elections, which the Hurriyat religiously boycotted.
Geelani spent most of the last decade detained at his residence and under 24x7 surveillance, his family members said. His oratory charisma helped him gain popularity in the Kashmir Valley. His speeches and public addresses pulled large crowds and that became a major concern for the Indian security establishment.
The leader has also been attributed among the India security establishment to derail ex-Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf’s four-point formula to resolve the Kashmir issue which Geelani saw as a "compromise".
G.K. Pillai, who was India's home secretary in 2010 told TRT World that negotiations and dialogues with Geelani never yielded anything. "He would simply not talk or say what was on his mind and instead ask us what we could offer. Obviously he knew that there would be no discussion on the question of Kashmir joining Pakistan," Pillai said
His refusal to settle for anything less than Kashmir's merger with Pakistan made him a sore thumb for the Indian authorities who on multiple occasions had sent emissaries to engage him.
In 2020, Geelani resigned from his political group citing instances of corruption and indiscipline among the Pakistan-based leadership of Hurriyat. Pakistan conferred its highest civilian award, Nishan-e-Pakistan, upon Geelani on its independence day last year.
The country's Prime Minister Imran Khan was among the first to react to Geelani's death, even quoting one of Geelani's pet slogans: "We are Pakistanis. Pakistan is ours".
To commemorate Geelani, Prime Minister Khan also announced Pakistan's flag will fly at half mast and will observe an official day of mourning.