Senior resistance leader and chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat group, Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai passed away on Wednesday in a government hospital in Jammu city.
Hospital sources said Sehrai had been admitted to government medical college (GMC) hospital Jammu on Tuesday.
“He was suffering from multiple ailments, he passed away today,” sources at the GMC hospital said in Jammu.
Sehrai’s oxygen saturation level had dropped to 65, but his rapid antigen test (RAT) had come negative. The result of the RT-PCR test is still awaited, sources said.
Sehrai was brought to the hospital from Kot Balwal jail where he was undergoing detention since last year.
He belonged to Lolab area of north Kashmir Kupwara district.
Sehrai had succeeded the octogenarian separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani as the chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat in August 2018 after Geelani relinquished following his deteriorating health.
Sehrai’s son, Junaid Sehrai was a top-ranking militant commander. He was killed in May 2020 in the old city area of Srinagar in an encounter with the armed forces.
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-India 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.
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.