Five days after Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai took over as chairman of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, replacing Syed Ali Shah Geelani, his youngest son has joined militant ranks in Kashmir. Like most recent recruits, Junaid Ashraf Khan (Sehrai), a 28-year-old management graduate, announced that he had joined militants by posting a picture holding an AK-47 rifle on social media. That makes him the first among the family members of the current top separatist leadership to take up arms. Police sources said he had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen in south Kashmir.
Junaid had gone missing from home on Friday, and his family had registered a missing report with police on Saturday. Barely hours later, the photo of Junaid holding the gun surfaced. “Junaid’s older brother Rashid Ashraf and a friend had come and filed a missing person’s report at the police station saying that after 1 pm yesterday (Friday), this boy (Junaid) was missing,” Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, S P Pani told The Sunday Express. “Meanwhile, some pictures came on social media. It has come to our notice and we are looking at it.”
A resident of Baghat Barzulla in Srinagar, Junaid studied at Oak Hill School in the city, before graduating from Srinagar’s Islamia College. He did his Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from Kashmir University. Family members said he had started working with Paytm. Junaid is the youngest of Mohd Sehrai’s four children, among them two other sons and a daughter.
Considered close to Geelani, Sehrai took over from him as head of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat just days ago. Geelani and Sehrai had together founded the outfit after parting ways from their parent organisation Jamat-e-Islami. The 74-year-old Sehrai is seen as an uncompromising separatist leader, and even more hardline than Geelani. The biggest criticism the separatist leadership has faced is that they have kept their own children insulated from the conflict while pushing others into militancy. In that sense, Junaid’s decision to join militant ranks could help elevate his father’s position among the separatist leadership and the public.