Earlier this week, hardline Kashmir separatist, Syed Ali Shah Geelani stepped down as the chief of the Tehrik-e-Hurriyat and made way for his long time friend, Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai.
While Geelani continues to head the Hurriyat Conference, it would only be a matter of time before he steps down owing to poor health, age and the pressure that the Indian government has mounted on him in the Kashmir terror funding case.
Geelani has been a hardliner and has always taken an anti-India stance. His stepping down would have been seen as a welcome move in many circles with the hope that the separatism in Kashmir may reduce. However, those who have closely followed his successor Sehrai say that he is capable of taking a harder stance than Geelani.
The Indian government is clear on the Kashmir issue. Any discussion on the Kashmir issue would under the purview of the Indian Constitution, the government has maintained. This has however been rejected by Geelani and the Hurriyat.
Analysts point out that the stand that Sehrai would take will be no different. He would not compromise and is also not expected to engage in any talks until the Kashmir issue is accepted as a 'dispute.'
A man who goes by the book, he is an ardent follower of the Hurriyat's Constitution which makes it clear that the only goal is separation from India. Although he is not the Hurriyat chief as yet, he still heads the TeH. The TeH incidentally is part of the 18 constituents of the Hurriyat and is also the largest. This means that Sehrai is in a powerful position and would wield plenty of influence on the Hurriyat.
Sehrai is also unlikely to speak with the Centre's interlocutor for Kashmir Dineshwar Sharma. The thinking in the Hurriyat is that they should not yield to the pressure being exerted by India. They feel that the NIA raids which targeted Geelani's son was an attempt to bring them to the talks table. The Hurriyat also feels that with China and Russia speaking about the Kashmir issue, they would lean towards them. They feel that in the days to come these countries would exert pressure on India.
New Delhi, however, says that this is plain loud thinking. India's stand is clear on the issue and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Any issue could only be resolved within this ambit, the official also noted. On Sehrai, Delhi says that they would wait and watch. We are aware that he is a hardliner and would not come to the talks table. Let us see how things shape up, the officer also noted.