Ashraf Sehrai, Hurriyat leader, dies under detention

Mohammad Ashraf Khan, aka Sehrai, chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat and a lifetime aide of Syed Ali Geelani, died at a hospital in Jammu where he was in detention for the past year. He was 77.

Sehrai, who was lodged at Kot Balwal Jail since July 2020, was admitted at the Government Medical College (GMC) Jammu after his health deteriorated earlier this week. He was facing detention under the Public Safety Act.

Anshul Garg, Deputy Commissioner Jammu, told The Kashmir Walla that Sehrai died at the hospital and his team will facilitate the body’s transfer to Srinagar. “My SOP committee is looking after it (the transfer of Sehrai’s body), we will facilitate it in the best possible way,” Garg said.

The police had yesterday informed Sehrai’s family in Srinagar about the deterioration in his health condition and told them to reach GMC Jammu where the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chairman was admitted.

A local news agency has reported that Sehrai had developed “serious breathing issues” even as it wasn’t clear if he was positive for COVID-19.  

Another news agency quoted Dr A D S Manhas, Medical Superintendent of GMC Jammu, as saying that Sehrai’s rapid test had come negative. “His RT-PCR for COVID-19 is awaited,” Manhas said.

Sehrai was a lifetime aide of Geelani and their association dated back to six decades. He was born in Tekipora village in Kupwara’s Lolab area.  

He was once tipped to be the successor of Geelani but the transition never took place. Sehrai was elected as the chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, a constituent of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, which was previously headed by Geelani.

Sehrai was part of the Jamaat-e-Islami for a major part of his life before he left the organisation and followed Geelani’s footsteps to become a part of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.

Sehrai’s younger son, Junaid Khan, was a militant associated with Hizbul and was killed in a gunfight in Srinagar in 2020.

Early life history of Ashraf Sehrai

Sehrai was born in 1944 in Tekipora village of Lolab Valley in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir to Shams-ud-din Khan. His ancestors had migrated from areas now part of modern-day Pakistan to Kashmir. He also has two elder brothers. One of them is Muhammad Yousuf Khan, one of the founders of Tehreek-e-Islami, who died in 2016. The other is Qamar-ud-din Khan, a renowned member of Jamat-e-Islami in the Lolab area who died in 2009.

As a student, he used to show an interest in religious and political discussions. He also has an interest in poems and literature and also authored writings as well as poems, most of which were published in “Azaan” and “Tulu” magazines. He started publishing Tulu in 1969 from Sopore. Sehrai commissioned articles, took care of its design as well as printing, and also wrote for the column called Safa-e-Pakistan which covered the events happening in Pakistan. He and Syed Ali Shah Geelani dedicated a special issue to Allama Iqbal in which they both wrote lengthy columns against Kashmiri socialists and a writer called Ashia Bhat while also defending the magazine and Jamaat-e-Islami, after the magazine’s claim of Iqbal not being a socialist-led to a controversy.

He is the father of six children, including four sons and two daughters. His youngest son Junaid Ashraf Khan became a militant in March 2018, joining Hizbul Mujahideen. Another of Sehrai’s sons is named Rashid Ashraf. Two of his other sons are named Khalid and Abid Ashraf.

Sehrai has stated that he never expected Junaid to become a militant but won’t request him to return.[16] Junaid later became Hizbul’s divisional commander but was killed in an encounter with the CRPF and J&K Police on 19 May 2020. Sehrai personally led his funeral prayers attended by about 300 people despite the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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