Srinagar: As Ashraf Sehraie takes over the chairmanship of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH), a discussion has begun on how this will impact the overall resistance politics of the Geelani-led Hurriyat Conference. Will it have a bearing on the strategy of Hurriyat (Geelani) which claims that no solution to the Kashmir issue is possible till New Delhi accepts Kashmir as a “dispute”?
According to political experts and government officials who have closely monitored Sehraie’s politics, there is unanimity that “under Sehraie, the separatist politics will become more hardline”.
“He is a man of the book,” a senior police officer told Kashmir Reader. “If you expect any engagement from this man, it is futile. He is even more of a hardliner than Geelani. It seems impossible that he will trespass the Hurriyat constitution. We do not expect any major change in their politics.”
The Hurriyat comprises 18 constituents. The TeH is the largest of them all. It mostly draws its men from the Jamaat-e-Islami. Sehraie and Geelani together formed the TeH in 2004.
“Hurriyat (G) is TeH,” the police officer said. “Both Geelani and Sehraie are former Jamaat leaders. The TeH is closely tied to the Jamaat. It is the biggest and most powerful of all the separatist groups.”
When Sehraie, who is known as the shadow of Geelani, took over the TeH, it also put to rest speculations that that there was an internal feud within the TeH on who would take over the reins. Some speculated that Geelani’s son wanted to take the position. The speculations got a boost when Sehraie shot a letter to Geelani saying all was not well within the TeH.
“These were mere speculations,” political analyst and law Professor Sheikh Showket Hussain said. “These speculations were planted to change the discourse of the TeH and thus of the Hurriyat.”
“There is no concept of family inheritance in the Jamaat,” Prof Hussain said. “The stepping down of Geelani has proved this point.”
Prof Hussain said that it is pro-Indian parties that follow the tradition of the family heir. “It is a known fact that Sheikh Abdullah abandoned Afzal Beigh for his son Farooq. It happened despite Beigh having spent 22 years in jail along with the Sheikh,” he said. “The TeH did not dump Sehraie.”
Hussain further said that the TeH will retain the leadership of the Hurriyat by virtue of being its biggest constituent in terms of cadre. “Ideologically, Geelani and Sehraie are the same. The strategy will continue to be a hardline one. With Geelani as head of Hurriyat and Sehraie in command of TeH, the political strategy of the resistance party will become more hardline,” Hussain said.
Will the Hurriyat now consider talks with the special representative of New Delhi, Dineshwar Sharma? Hussain said “it was not a possibility”.
“The NIA raids and the subsequent questioning of Geelani’s son were pressure tactics to force them into talks,” he said. “There is now entry of Russia and China, who have started speaking about Kashmir. With the passage of time, they will intervene more and it will become harder for New Delhi to manage the issue. That’s why pressure was mounted on Hurriyat to talk and reach some sort of conclusion. However, it does not seem to be working.”
Spokesperson of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Rafi Ahmad Mir, said that Sehraie is an important leader of the TeH and he did not expect any deviation from the existing policy. “There can be internal reasons for the change,” he said. “Regarding political engagement, things vary from person to person. I do not foresee any tangible change in Hurriyat’s politics.”
Provincial president of the opposition National Conference, Nasir Sogami, said that Geelani may have stepped down from the TeH chair but he continues to hold the chairmanship of Hurriyat. “He continues to be there. I do not think there will be any variation in their politics,” Sogami said.
Similarly, NC General Secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar, who has been in politics for more than three decades, said, “Geelani continues to be Hurriyat chairman and he will continue to dominate his amalgam as long as he is there.”