March 2018 News

Geelani Steps Down, Sehraie Steps Up

19 March 2018
Kashmir Monitor
Mubashir Bukhari

Srinagar: Senior separatist leader Muhammad Ashraf Sehraie was on Monday appointed as the chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH), a dominant part of Syed Ali Geelani-led Hurriyat (G) faction. 'In a unanimous decision taken in an extraordinary meeting of its highest decision making body (Majlis-e-Shoora) of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat appointed Mohammad Ashraf Sehraie as interim Chairman, till the organizational elections, to be held late this year,' read a TeH statement. The Tehreeq-e-Hurriyat led by Syed Ali Geelani Monday held a meeting at its office in Srinagar and appointed Sehraie as party chairman, thus replacing Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The decision to replace Geelani with Sehraie, who is his old-time friend and associate, was taken after an executive meet of the organisation. Geelani while addressing the members of Shoora, said that they were aware of the prevailing situation of the valley and hard times the 'pro-freedom' camp was facing especially Tehreek-e-Hurriyat. 'By the grace of Allah Almighty and your timely cooperation I have stood my stand despite testing times of Jails, Interrogations, domestic hardships, physical and psychological onslaught, but for the last 8 years of continuous house arrest, restrictions on the interactions with my party colleagues has dented the function of the organization,' Geelani said. He added that merely holding a position without practical contribution is injustice not only with the post, but the conscience as well. 'So today I willfully step-down from the chairmanship, and advise the shoora to arrange an alternative at the earliest. I extend my fullest cooperation and sincere wishes to the would-be leadership of the organization,' Geelani, as per the TeH statement said. Later, before conclusion, the Shoora 'unanimously appointed Sehraie as interim chairman till the party elections to be held later in the year'. Geelani and Sehraie were among the founding members of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH) when it was formed in 2004 after Geelani had a rift with Jamat-e-Islami, its parent organisation. Sehraie, then a member of Jamat, was instrumental in the formation of the new separatist outfit, say sources. Sehraie parted ways with the Jamat more than a decade ago. Sehraie, who was until now the general secretary of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, was tipped to be the first choice to replace Geelani. In fact, three years ago, Geelani had decided to nominate him as his successor in the Hurriyat but the announcement was halted at the last moment after some members questioned Geelani making a nomination when organisation had an election system. Sehraie's appointment also comes two days after Geelani said he rejected an offer of talks by the Modi government in New Delhi when an official of Intelligence Bureau (IB) had visited him at his residence here. In November 2015, Geelani was elected as lifetime chairman of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat . Though reports say that the handing over of the charge was due to the old age of Geelani, some say there may be other factors which may have pushed in the change. As per reports, Sehraie, a few months ago, had written to Geelani expressing his displeasure about some developments within the faction. Sehraie did not attend many executive council meetings of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat and the Hurriyat as well. The change of guard also comes at a time of an unprecedented crackdown by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on the separatist camp. NIA has arrested several senior pro-freedom leaders in the past one year. They are currently detained in Tihar Jail in New Delhi. Apart from senior Hurriyat leaders Shabir Shah, Nayeem Khan, Shahid-ul-Islam, Farooq Dar alias Bitta Karate, Meraj-ud-Din Kalwal, Peer Saifullah and Ayaz Akbar, Geelani's son-in-law Altaf Ahmad Shah is presently under NIA detention while his sons Naeem Geelani and Naseem Geelani were summoned by the agency many times in the past. A resident of Tikki Pora Lolab in North Kashmir's Kupwara district, Sehraie joined Jama'at in 1950s a few years after Geelani. He is credited to have worked as a 'foot soldier' in JeI in the trying times. He has held various positions in JeI including that of Secretary General. When JeI J&K decided to launch its student wing, Sehraie was chosen to lead Shooba-i-Talaba since 1977. Shooba-i-Talaba was renamed as Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT) later on and the current framework of IJT has been designed by Sehraie himself in 2001.