Srinagar: Jailed senior separatist leader and chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH) Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai died at the government medical college in Jammu where he had been transferred Tuesday.
The 80-year old politician had been lodged in Kot Balwal Jail in Jammu since he was booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) in July last year.
Sehrai was booked and arrested nearly two months after his son Junaid Sehrai, a militant commander in the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit, was killed in a gun battle in Srinagar.
“He would call twice every week but didn’t do so in the last 10 days. The last time we spoke, he told us that he wasn’t well. In fact, some of our family members had met him last time on 15 February. That time too, he wasn’t doing well due to multiple medical conditions. On Tuesday evening, we were called by the authorities and informed that he has been taken to GMC,” a family member in Srinagar told ThePrint.
“We managed to send some of our extended family members there and they told us Sehrai sahab had been left alone without assistance, and we needed to come soon. Unfortunately, he passed away even before any of us could reach (Jammu).”
The family also said it was yet to be ascertained whether Sehrai was suffering from Covid-19, but added that oxygen level of the senior leader had dropped to almost 60 last night.
Director General of J&K Police Dilbag Singh, Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education, Atal Dulloo and Jammu Divisional Commissioner Raghav Langer did not respond to ThePrint’s calls and texts for comments.
A source in the Jammu police, however, said the senior politician had been showing some symptoms of Covid-19.
Burial likely in Kupwara
Peoples Conference chief Sajad Lone questioned the government’s decision to keep an “old infirm” Sehrai in prison during the pandemic.
“…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,” Peoples Conference chief Sajad Lone tweeted.
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. Seharai Sahib was a political leader not a terrorist.
— Sajad Lone (@sajadlone) May 5, 2021
Meanwhile, Sehrai’s family said they won’t be permitted to bury him in Srinagar. “It is likely that we won’t be allowed to bury him in Srinagar. Most probably, he will be buried at his native place in Kupwara district,” said the family member quoted above.
Sehrai (80) had taken over the chairmanship of TeH from senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani in 2018. Sehrai, a long time aide of Geelani, was considered the number two in the camp.
Originally from Lolab area of Kupwara, Sehrai was a log time Jamaat-e-Islami leader, until both Geelani and him part ways to form TeH.