Separatist leader and Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH) chairman Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai was on Sunday morning taken into custody from his home in Srinagar by J&K Police and booked under the Public Safety Act. Sehrai (76) was a strong contender to take over as chief of the Hurriyat Conference after its lifetime chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, in a letter, announced his dissociation from the separatist amalgam.
This comes days after the TeH formed a team to probe the authenticity of the letter purportedly written by Geelani in which the latter announced his dissociation from the Hurriyat Conference.
Police are yet to state the reasons behind the move. “Yes, he has been booked under PSA,” Kashmir Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar told The Indian Express.
However, sources said the separatists were trying to reunite under Sehrai, once a close confidante of Geelani, and that the arrest is an attempt to deny them any chance to re-assemble under the umbrella group after Geelani parted ways from the organisation. “Under the present circumstances, he was the only leader who could have been the consensus candidate and also could have reunited the separatists,” said a senior police officer. “Under Sehrai, attempts were being made to reunite the separatists. By his arrest, the government has ensured that the confusion and chaos should remain in the separatist ranks.”
After a raid at Sehrai’s house in Srinagar’s Baghat area early on Sunday morning, police told the separatist leader that he was being taken into preventive custody, sources said. However, they later announced he has been booked under the PSA that allows authorities to detain any person without a trial for at least six months.
Sehrai’s stature among separatist leaders had risen when his son Junaid joined militancy immediately after he was elected as chairman of the TeH — a political party Geelani had founded with Sehrai after parting ways from their parent organisation Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir — after Geelani’s resignation in 2018. Junaid was killed in an encounter in Srinagar on May 19.
Several Hurriyat leaders had questioned the authenticity of Geelani’s letter, in which he complained that constituents of the amalgam failed to lead the people after abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, “overstepped the limits”, and tried to “create a parallel structure”. They alleged that Geelani can’t write a coherent letter as he is in an advanced stage of dementia and that it was fabricated by Geelani’s son Dr Nayeem Geelani and Abdullah Geelani, the representative of the separatist leader in Pakistan. The two have rejected the allegations.
As the TeH chairman, Sehrai had rejected the membership application of Dr Nayeem, pre-empting any move by him to claim succession to Geelani. Sources in Hurriyat said that Sehrai believed Dr Nayeem to be the reason behind infighting within the Hurriyat and distancing between Hurriyat leaders and Geelani.
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