Kashmir: New Hurriyat chief Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai's son joins Hizbul; image of him holding AK-47 goes viral

Srinagar: The son of Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, the newly-elected chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, has joined the Hizbul Mujahideen militant group in Kashmir, top sources said. A photo of Junaid Ashraf Khan, 28, brandishing an AK-47 rifle went viral on social media on Saturday. This is the first time that the son of a senior separatist leader of the stature of Sehrai has joined the militancy in Kashmir.

Undated image of Junaid being circulated on WhatsApp.

Undated image of Junaid Ashraf Khan being circulated on WhatsApp.

According to a complaint filed by Sehrai in Saddar police station in Srinagar, his son, Junaid, has been missing from his residence for the past 24 hours. This prompted rumours that Junaid may have joined Hizbul Mujahideen. The militant outfit headed by Syed Salahuddin draws its cadre mostly from the disaffected Jamaat-I-Islami group in Kashmir.

Junaid, who has an MBA from Kashmir University, hails from Tikipora village in Kupwara, which is also the village of Mannan Wani, an AMU Ph.D student who recently joined the Hizbul. The two are reportedly friends.

Senior Jammu and Kashmir Police officers refused to comment. However, a top officer in the state’s criminal investigations department confirmed to Firstpost that Sehrai filed a missing complaint at Saddar police station, though he didn’t divulge details.

Family sources said Junaid left for Friday prayers near his house in Srinagar's Bhagat locality and has not returned. “We are investigating the case and a missing complaint has been received,” senior superintendent of police, Srinagar, Imtiyaz Parray, said.

Sources in the state’s intelligence grid confirmed there are reports of Junaid having joined Hizbul Mujahideen, but the information has not been confirmed thus far. “We are working on it and a confirmation will be made soon,” sources said.

Sehrai, 72, who is considered to be more of a hardliner than his predecessor Syed Ali Shah Geelani, was recently elected chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat. Geelani relinquished his post after 14 years and an election paved way for Sehrai’s anointment. Geelani was the founding chairman of Hurriyat since it was formed in 2004, while Sehrai was the organisation's general secretary.

If confirmed, the latest development will cast a shadow on the new chairman of the Hurriyat. Sehrai, a voracious reader who has kept a low-profile over the past three decades of turmoil in Kashmir, is known for his “radical ideas”. In his first interview as chairman, Sehrai came down heavily on those supporting the Islamic State ideology, saying it has nothing to do with Kashmir and their venomous ideology will never be accepted.

“Islamic State and Al-Qaeda have nothing to do with our movement and we will never accept them,” Sehrai said. He urged the youth in Kashmir to not get swayed by the extremist ideology and understand Islam in its proper perspective. “Some elements are creating confusion among masses by raising Islamic State flags at the funeral of militants. We have kept a close watch on them and will soon chart out a plan to stop them after Hurriyat elections."

Experts fear the latest development is also likely to give an impetus to the phenomenon of “new insurgency” in Kashmir that was popularised by the Hizbul Mujahideen’s Burhan Wani whose killing sparked mass unrest in 2016. According to official figures, more than 200 militants were gunned down in encounters with security forces in Jammu and Kashmir in 2017, a majority of them being disaffected local boys for whom Wani became a figure of inspiration.

Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.

Updated Date: Mar 24, 2018 18:26:25 IST

Also See