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Imprisoned Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Chairman Ashraf Sehrai dies at GMC Jammu

Sehrai who was shifted from Udhampur jail to GMC Jammu yesterday had developed serious breathing issues and breathed his last this afternoon.

SRINAGAR (J&K)

Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH) Chairman Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai died on Wednesday in Jammu’s Government Medical College (GMC) after suffering from severe respiratory problems. Reports said Ashraf Sehrai, who had been transferred from Udhampur jail to GMC Jammu the day before, had developed severe breathing problems and died this afternoon.

As per reports, he had multiple ailments and his condition had deteriorated in Udhampur jail after which he was shifted to GMC Jammu on Tuesday. Pertinently, Ashraf Sehrai tested positive for COVID-19 post his death as his samples were taken soon after his admission in GMC Jammu.

Meanwhile, his family said that an ambulance was provided to them and the body will reach Kashmir soon. The family members, however, said that the authorities have not allowed the funeral prayers at Srinagar and thus the last rites will be performed in Kupwara. “The last rites including the burial will be performed till 10:00 AM tomorrow,” the family members said.

Sehrai was detained last year and booked under Public Safety Act. The 76-year-old was considered as a strong contender to take over as chief of the Hurriyat Conference after its former chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, in a letter, announced his dissociation from the amalgam.

Ashraf Sehrai’s stature among Hurriyat 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. His son Junaid was killed in an encounter in Srinagar on May 19 last year.

In Srinagar, APHC in a statement while quoting family sources said that Sehrai was suffering from multiple ailments and despite repeated requests by the family that his health was deteriorating in jail, he was left unattended by the authorities till his condition worsened yesterday and he died.

“APHC deeply regrets this inhumane attitude of the authorities and is pained by it,” it said. APHC said that despite repeated appeals to release political prisoners lodged in various jails on humanitarian grounds in view of the devastating Covid catastrophe, authorities are playing with their lives.

Who Was Ashraf Sehrai

Sehrai was born in 1944 in Tekipora village of Lolab area of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. He completed his primary education in his hometown Tekipora and secondary education from Sogam Lolab High School in 1959. Sehrai did his Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Urdu from Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh.

He was fond of writing and his writings as well as poems were mostly published in different media outlets including ‘Tulu’, which he started publishing in 1969 from Sopore area of Baramulla district. The magazine being published by him was shut down in 1971.

Sehrai became an affiliate of Syed Ali Shah Geelani in 1959 and became his close aide and friend. He became the member of Jamaat-e-Islami in 1960 and was incarcerated for the first time in the year 1965 over anti-government activities after he delivered a speech criticizing Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq’s government for repression of free speech and arrest of members of the Moh-e-Muqaddas Majlis-e-Amal.

After leaving Jamaat-e-Islami, Sehrai was appointed as Tehreek-e-Hurriyat’s General Secretary in the year 2004 during its foundation. Later, on March 19, 2018, he was appointed the acting chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat after Geelani stepped down. Sehrai was elected as Chairman Tehreek-e-Hurriyat for three years on August 19 by a margin of 410 votes out of a total of 433.

Sehrai had six children – four sons and two daughters. The youngest son of Sehrai, Junaid Sehrai joined militant ranks in March 2018 and was killed on May 19, 2020 in an encounter by the government forces in Srinagar.

In July 2020, he was arrested under Public Safety Act and was serving imprisonment in the district jail of Udhampur. His health deteriorated on May 04, 2021 following which he was subsequently admitted to Government Medical College, Jammu where he died today.

Dal Khalsa described Ashraf Sehrai as a genuine friend of Sikhs of Punjab

After the demise of the Chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, Dal Khalsa on Wednesday expressed grief and expressed their condolences.

They said he was a man of ‘principles and commitment’. They prayed before the Almighty to give strength to family members, Hurriyat colleagues and people of Kashmir to bear the loss of their ‘true representative’.

Party Spokesman Kanwar Pal Singh in a statement said that Sehrai was a genuine friend of Sikhs of Punjab. He said like the people of Kashmir, they too have lost their sympathizer and supporter.

Political leaders condole Ashraf Sehrai’s demise

The political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir expressed grief over the demise of Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai. The former chief minister of erstwhile J&K State and PDP President Mehbooba Mufti in her tweet said that in today’s India, one pays a price with his life for dissent.

“Deeply saddened to know about Ashraf Sehrai sahab’s sudden demise. Like him countless political prisoners & other detainees from J&K continue to be jailed purely for their ideologies & thought process. In today’s India one pays a price with his life for dissent,” Mehbooba tweeted.

She, however, said that the government amid the prevalent situation should release the detainees on parole. “The least GOI can do in such dangerous circumstances is to immediately release these detainees on parole so that they return home to their families,” she tweeted.

Peoples Conference (PC) Chairman Sajad Gani Lone questioned the government’s rationale behind keeping an octogenarian, Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai in jail in spite of the fact that he was battling a plethora of ailments due to his old age.

Terming Sehrai’s demise in incarceration as unfortunate and totally uncalled for, Lone said that there is a dire need to introspect the way system has been dealing with such cases. He said Sehrai was a political leader and not a terrorist and that he deserved to die in his home, amongst his loved ones.

Apni Party President Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari extended solidarity with the bereaved family and prayed for eternal peace to the departed soul. “I pray to almighty Allah to grant Jannat to Sehrai and give courage to his family to bear this huge loss. Apni Party stands in solidarity with Sehrai’s family at this difficult period of time,” he added.

While expressing grief, CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami urged the administration to shift his body to Kashmir at the earliest so that his family could perform his last rites.

In a condolence message, he extended solidarity with the bereaved family and urged the administration to facilitate them in performing his last rites without any difficulties.

Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) also expressed profound grief at the passing away of Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai. In a condolence message, JKPCC said the septuagenarian Ashraf Sehrai was a well-known religious and scholarly figure of Kashmir and conveyed deepest condolences to the bereaved family.

“In the death of Sehrai, people of J&K have lost a sincere able and an honest leader,” the statement from All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) said.

Paying tributes to Sehari, APHC said that he was dedicated to his party and its ideology and worked tirelessly and selflessly for the people’s movement, suffering imprisonment in the course of his life.

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Aasif Ganaie

Aasif is a journalist and a news enthusiast based in Jammu & Kashmir. He voyages to explore and uncover the stories that need to be told. With a special focus on data journalism, the journo also writes about happenings, events and everything that matters.

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