|Geelani has been repeatedly arrested by Indian authorities, who say that he is responsible for inciting violence [EPA]
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a veteran of Kashmiri politics, is the leader of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and a staunch opponent of union with India.
Born in a town in the Bandipora area of northern Kashmir on September 29, 1929, Geelani received his preliminary education at Sopore, and finished his studies at the Oriental College, Lahore (Pakistan).
Geelani initially formed the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat in the early days of his political career, but then abandoned that platform to join the more established Jamaat-e-Islami (Jammu and Kashmir). He now uses the name of his original political party (re-formed in 2003) for his faction of the APHC, in contrast with the faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, which is known as the "moderate" APHC.
Geelani had helped form the APHC in 1993, along with Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone (of the People's Conference), Maulvi Abbas Ansari (of the Liberation Council) and Abdul Ghani Bhat (of the Muslim Conference). He succeeded Farooq, the body's founding chairman, in 1997.
During this period there was a perception that Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) was going through an internal struggle, with moderate forces looking to disavow themselves from militancy. Geelani was long seen as the driving force behind both militant and political policy.
Geelani, in general, has taken the position that Kashmir must have the right of self-determination, but specifically advocates the position of union with Pakistan. He has been seen as close to the Pakistani government, but has not shied away from criticising that country's policies in the past. He was particularly critical of the Kargil episode, saying that while Pakistan had been supporting "the indigenous struggle of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, morally, diplomatically and politically ... this does not mean Pakistan can take a decision on our behalf".
Geelani began his political career in 1950, and has spent, all told, more than a decade in jail. He was first imprisoned in 1962, but has spent several spells in jail (ranging from days at a time to just over a year) from then onwards, with the Indian authorities often arresting him before elections. The JI leader has frequently termed polls held under the Indian government as "sham polls".
Omar Abdullah, the current chief minister of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir and the president of the National Conference (NC), has repeatedly blamed Geelani for the rise of militancy in Kashmir. Farooq Abdullah, Omar's father and the patron of the NC, has echoed this call, urging Geelani to "adopt a path which could save Kashmiri people from further destruction".
Geelani's participation in the electoral process lasted until 1989, when the armed Kashmiri resistance to Indian rule in Indian-administered Kashmir began. He resigned his seat in the legislature in protest at the time, and has boycotted all elections held since.
The JI leader was diagnosed with renal cancer in 2007, but from his home in Srinagar, he remains a major force in Kashmiri politics.