London-based Kashmiri separatist leader Dr Ayub Thakur is critical and on life support system, close friends and official sources told rediff.com
Dr Thakur has been accused by India of funding terrorism. India had demanded his extradition in 2002 for allegedly funding militancy in Kashmir. In fact Dr Thakur tops the list of 14 British-based Indian businessmen against whom India had sought action by the British government.
One his close friends in Kashmir said doctors treating Dr Thakur have declared him brain dead and are sustaining him till his family is ready with arrangements for last rites.
According to indications available from Kashmir, New Delhi and London, his last rites could snowball into yet another complex stand off between the Indian government and Kashmiri separatists.
The government is reluctant to allow Dr Thakur's body to be brought to Jammu and Kashmir. Such a move may allow the radical to hijack the funeral leading to violence and confrontation.
Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a close friend of Dr Thakur, told rediff.com he wanted the body would be brought to Dr Thakur's ancestral village near Shopian. Thakur's wife holds an Indian passport, but the separatist leader holds only British documents.
"He has done a great service to the Kashmiri cause," Geelani said. The separatist leader said he would not personally approach the government because that could 'further worsen the possibility of Thakur's body being brought to Indian side of Kashmir'.
Thakur, a former professor of the Kashmir University, heads the World Kashmir Freedom Movement.
He also runs Mercy Universal Production, a charity organization, which sends money to Kashmiris. Thakur says he is supporting 'social work in Kashmir and not terrorism'.
With his death imminent, the Indian government is discussing various options to deal with the situation. An Indian diplomat dealing with Britain said Dr Thakur is no more an Indian and so the government could turn down a request from his family to bring his body back to Kashmir.
"They (the extremists) could use his last rites to inflame public feelings," the diplomat said. The official said the government is keeping a watch on the situation and would take the appropriate decision when the time comes. "The request has to come through our high commission in London," he said.
Dr Thakur has been suffering from serious lung infection for sometime now and had been treated in US.
Several leading Kashmiri separatist leaders, including Aijaz Afzal, the head of Pakistan occupied Kashmir-based Jamaat-e-Islaami, are in London by Thakur's bedside, Geelani said.
"If I or any of my associates had the passport we would have been with him now," Geelani said. Passports of Geelani and many of his associates are with the Indian government, which impounded them.