As Kashmir is thrown into violent protests once again it is worthwhile to mention the influence that the 82-year old Syed Ali Shah Geelani commands on the people. He enjoys widespread respect among his people for his firm stance on azadi or freedom of Jammu and Kashmir from Indian rule, a stance that he has never wavered from. Geelani’s popularity among vast numbers of Kashmiri Muslims owes to the fact that he is seen as one Kashmiri leader who has never compromised with India, and who has had to face considerable personal hardship, including long instances of imprisonment, for denouncing India’s illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir and its violation on a massive scale of human rights in the region. With Kashmir up in flames again, Geelani’s word is now almost law to the fearless Kashmiri youth out in the streets defying the might of the Indian state with stones. The overwhelming response to his calls for strikes and demonstrations that have rocked the Kashmir Valley for several weeks now in protest against the killing of youths by Indian armed forces clearly indicates that Geelani is back at the centre-stage of Kashmir politics. It would not be an exaggeration to claim that he is regarded by many Kashmiri Muslims as the unparalleled icon of their resistance to Indian rule.

“No solution under the Indian constitution will be acceptable to Kashmiris.”

–Syed Ali Shah Geelani in a public meeting on March 20, 2010.