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Detained TeH leader Ashraf Sehrai dies in Jammu hospital

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Political leaders condole demise

Srinagar: Prominent separatist leader Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, who was arrested under the Public Safety Act (PSA) in July last year, died at a hospital here on Wednesday, officials said.

Sehrai, 77, a close confidant of Hurriyat-G leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, was incarcerated at the district jail in Udhampur. He was shifted to Jammu’s Government Medical College (GMC) hospital after his health deteriorated on Tuesday, the officials said.

Sehrai, who replaced Geelani as chairperson of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH) in 2018, had tested negative for COVID-19 in a rapid antigen test. His RTPCR report is still awaited, they said.

He had COVID-19 symptoms and his oxygen levels had fallen, the officials added.

They said Sehrai, who had been jailed in Udhampur since July 13, 2020, had been suffering from various ailments. He complained of breathlessness on Tuesday and was taken to the district hospital in Udhampur. When his situation did not improve, he was moved to the GMC, about 55 kilometres away, where he breathed his last around noon on Wednesday following acute respiratory distress, the officials said.

His youngest son Junaid Ashraf Khan had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfit in March 2018 and was later killed in an encounter with security forces in Srinagar on May 19, 2020.

Sehrai was one of those detained during a lockdown ahead of the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and its bifurcation into two union territories in August 2019. He was finally arrested under the PSA from his Barzaulla residence in Srinagar in July last year.

Originally hailing from Tekipura village in Lolab in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, Sehrai joined the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) at a young age and remained associated with Geelani for over six decades. He was detained numerous times on charges of carrying out anti-government and anti-national activities.

Sehrai was Geelani’s main supporter and aide when he launched the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat in 2004 after parting ways with the Jamaat. Sehrai was appointed as acting chairperson by Tehreek-e-Hurriyat in March 2018 and was later elected as chairperson for three years after Geelani stepped down from the post.

Meanwhile, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday said numerous political leaders continue to be under detention in Jammu and Kashmir “purely” for their ideology as she condoled the death of detained senior separatist leader Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai.

“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 wrote on Twitter.

Mehboooba said the Centre should immediately release detainees.

“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 said.

Peoples Conference president and former minister Sajad Lone paid tribute to Sehrai and said, “Sehrai Sahib was a political leader not a terrorist”.

In a series of tweets, Lone remembered his meeting with the leader and asked, “And why did he have to die in incarceration and not at his home amongst his kin and loved ones. Have we become so weak that an old infirm dying person is a threat to the state. I am not being critical. But please introspect.”

“This is the irony of Kashmiri politics. Top quality politicians consumed by the conflict. The ideological versatility of Kashmir politics is a curse. A transparently honest politician spent decades in jail,” he added.

While expressing grief, CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami urged the administration to shift Sehrai’s 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.

“In view of the prevailing Covid crisis, it would be appropriate if the cases of prisoners are reviewed and those who are not involved in heinous crimes are released. There is Supreme Court direction that the Under-trial Review Committee should specifically look into aspects pertaining to effective implementation of Section 436 CrPC and Section 436-A CrPC so that under-trial prisoners are released at the earliest,” he pointed out.

Apni Party president Mohammad Altaf Bukhari also expressed shock and grief over the demise of Sehrai.

“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,” Bukhari said.

Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) also expressed profound grief at the passing away of Muhammad Ashraf Khan (Sehrai) in Jammu.

In a condolence message, JKPCC said the septuagenarian Sehrai was a well-known religious and scholarly figure of Kashmir and conveyed condolences to the bereaved family.

“Deeply saddened to learn about the passing away of Sehrai,” JKPCC added and expressed solidarity with his family and prayed for eternal peace to departed soul.

Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiaz Umar Farooq also expressed grief and sorrow at the demise of Sehari.

“As per family sources, 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. APHC deeply regrets this inhumane attitude of the authorities and is pained by it,” Hurriyat-M said in a statement here.

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