Srinagar: Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chairman Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai was on Thursday laid to rest at a martyrs’ graveyard in his ancestral village in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir as per COVID protocol, officials said here.
Sehrai, who was arrested and booked under the Public safety Act last year, died at a Jammu hospital on Wednesday while in custody.
“Burial of separatist leader late Ashraf Shehrai completed as per Covid protocol in presence of family members at his native place,” Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar said in a tweet.
Sehrai’s demise while in preventive detention under the PSA led to widespread calls for release of other political prisoners from Jammu and Kashmir who are held in various jails within and outside the Union Territory.
According to the reports, Sehrai’s mortal remains reached his native village Tekipora in Lolab at around 4:00 am Thursday. A limited number of mourners, mostly family members and close relatives participated in the funeral prayers with adherence to all necessary protocols.
Reports said that anticipating large participation in the funeral, the authorities had imposed restrictions on the entry of outsiders in the village and also disallowed the local residents from participating in the last rites amid apprehensions of “law and order” situation coupled with prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
Sehrai is survived by his wife, three sons – Khalid Ashraf, Rashid Ashraf and Mujahid Ashraf – and two daughters.
His youngest son Junaid Ashraf Khan had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen in March 2018 and was later killed in an encounter with state forces in Srinagar on May 19, 2020.
Sehrai was one of those detained during a lockdown ahead of the revocation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir 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. He 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, former J&K Chief Minister and Member of Parliament from Srinagar Dr. Farooq Abdullah on Thursday expressed profound grief over the demise of Sehrai.
He said that the death of Sehrai brings home the point that the government must ensure the wellbeing of Kashmiri prisoners lodged across jails in the country.
“Their families are worried. In times of pandemic and at other times, they deserve to know that their loved ones are safe and healthy. It is incumbent upon the government to ensure that necessary COVID-19 protocol is followed in the detention centers across the country to ensure the wellbeing of the inmates. The Government should consider releasing ailing political prisoners, even though the Supreme Court had already issued guidelines for decongesting jails in view of the pandemic,” he said as per a party spokesperson.
“Right to life is the fundamental right of every citizen of the country including under trials and convicts facing incarceration at various prisons across the country. Governments across the emancipated world cannot afford to negate basic human rights to good health,” he added.
The NC patron also urged the government to consider the parole and temporary release of ailing inmates and demanded conducting a Covid care audit of all prisons across the country in general and J&K in particular to ensure strict adherence to COVID protocol, availability of critical care equipment and drugs and immediate parole to such inmates who are suffering from co-morbidities. (With agency inputs)
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