Riyaz Ul Khaliq
In a historic decision, Hurriyat patriarch Syed Ali Geelani, will be succeeded by his life time friend, and colleague, Muhammad Ashraf Khan alias Sehrai as chairperson, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH) Jammu and Kashmir.
The announcement in this regard is expected to be made on Monday.
87 year old Geelani is currently heading TeH since 2004 August.
Geelani and Sehrai have been working alongside each other for last 65 years, first in Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI) and now in TeH.
A resident of Tikki Pora Lolab in North Kashmir’s Kupwara district, Sehrai 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, Sehrai 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 Sehrai himself in 2001.
After 2002, All Parties Hurriyat Conference division, difference of opinion became public in JeI and officially, Geelani and Sehrai were allowed to form TeH. A formal agreement was agreed upon in which TeH was supposed to receive support from JeI. Those who joined TeH and were associated with JeI would continue as members of JeI, however, it didn’t materialize thereafter.
Geelani among others are still members but Sehrai’s membership stands suspended. But they can’t run for any position in JeI, however, they are voters.
Sources in the TeH confirmed to Kashmir Life about this major development in contemporary separatist politics. “Geelani sahab has given his go-ahead and it is just a public statement away,” a top TeH leader said.
Given the ailing health of Geelani, sources revealed, “Geelani was himself readying for this major change and some days back he called his trusted men and announced the decision.”
Sehrai was working as Secretary General of TeH since 2004. He will be second chairperson of the organization.
The set-up in TeH changes after every three years; the last elections were held in September 2013 when around 1000 basic members voted. “This time, elections were slated for September but given the weak health conditions of Geelani, the party has decided to pave way for Sehrai’s take over,” sources said.
However, what remains to be seen is whether Sehrai succeeds Geelani in All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC-g). APHC-g is an amalgam of over 13 separatist parties of which Tehreek-e-Hurriyat is the largest one. Since 2002, Geelani is heading the Hurriyat amalgam.
This time, TeH claims of having around 1300 basic members and around 11000 general members. “After three years, the general members are formally baptized in TeH but there are certain requirements which are to be fulfilled by the member.”
A TeH leader said that the organization is working across Kashmir besides in Poonch and Doda in Jammu region.
In past as well, Sehrai has remained acting chairperson of TeH because Geelani was jailed. “Almost it happened three times that Sehrai and Pir Saifullah led the party in Geelani’s absence.”
In 2014, TeH announced forming of a public trust – Milli Trust – which has eight basic members with Geelani as life time chairperson. TeH claims that the trust is working for destitute, widows, orphans, political detainees and other literary work. Geelani has transferred all his personal property to this trust. Notably, the property includes Hyderpora residence and office of TeH which is being claimed by Jama’at-e-Islami as well.
Meanwhile, sources said that Tehreek-e-Hurriyat is holding a press conference at 12 PM today.