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Published in the 1-15 Feb 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Geelani denied permission for Hajj

Syed Ali Geelani

Srinagar: A hardline Kashmiri separatist leader and 40 other Muslims have been denied permission to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage, a government official said.

Syed Ali Geelani, who leads a pro-Pakistan faction of Kashmir's main separatist alliance, had applied to the government of Indian-administered Kashmir for permission go on the holy trip to Mecca with his wife. 

The applications of 40 others, most of them linked to separatist parties, had also been rejected, the official added, giving no reason. Another official said the state intelligence department had drawn up a list of 135 people, including Geelani, that it urged be barred from making the trip and the recommendations were being strictly followed. The rejection marked the third year in a row that Geelani had not been allowed to go on the Hajj, said Ayaz Akbar, an aide. "This is a major curb on our religious rights," said Akbar. 
India impounded Geelani's passport in the early 1990s and has not allowed him to leave the country since.
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