Srinagar: Eminent Shia cleric and MLA of opposition PDP in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari died Tuesday following prolonged illness.
A four-time MLA from Pattan in north Kashmir, Ansari, 74, died in the wee hours after battling liver cirrhosis for more than a year, his family sources said. He is survived by wife, two sons and a daughter.
Upon hearing the news of his death, thousands of Ansari’s supporters thronged his residence at Qamarwari in the city. Many areas, dominated by Shias, observed a shutdown as a mark of respect to the departed leader. Ansari’s body was later taken in a procession to Zadibal where he was laid to rest in his ancestral graveyard.
Starting his career as a Congress leader in early ‘60s, Ansari was made Member of state’s Legislative Council on a Congress ticket in 1973. However, he switched over to Janata Party in 1977.
Born on April 26, 1940, Ansari, who studied Islamic theology in Iran, Egypt and Iraq, returned to Congress in 1980s and was chosen as leader of the Legislature party in the state Assembly from 1983 to 1987.
After brief stay in National Conference, during which he was also a minister in Farooq Abdullah government, Ansari quit the party in 2006 to join the PDP.
The Shia cleric won the election in 2008 on a PDP ticket and was nominated as the party candidate for the forthcoming assembly elections scheduled to be held later this year.
Leaders cutting across party lines condoled his death and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah visited his residence of Ansari and offered ‘fateha’.
Condoling his death, Omar said his contributions both as a religious leader and public representative will be remembered for a very long time.
“My heartfelt condolences to the family and followers of Moulvi Iftikhar Ansari. His untimely demise has left a void that will be long felt,” Omar said. “Moulvi Sahib has cast a long shadow with his contribution as a religious leader and as a public representative, which will be long remembered,” he added.
Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has expressed profound grief over the demise of Ansari.
In his condolence message, Mirwaiz said that Ansari happened to be a close friend of his late father Mirwaiz Moulvi Mohammad Farooq. “The day Awami Action Committee was founded by (the late Mirwaiz) for demanding right to self-determination, Ansari was one of its founding members,” Mirwaiz said, offering his heartfelt condolences and solidarity with the bereaved family.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and former Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad condoled demise of Ansari and said Ansari’s death was a personal loss to him and a great loss to the society.
The deceased leader all along his political career served the people of the state with fervor and commitment and his contributions will be remembered for a long time to come, he said.
“Moulvi Sahab was an embodiment of confidence and courage who steadfastly propagated the values and ideals which he believed in, notwithstanding the odds”, Azad said.
Recalling the three assassination bids that he survived, Azad said that Ansari was one of the rare political stalwarts who stood by the people of the state in all the vicissitudes and endeavoured to serve, guide and lead them with determination and elan.
Meanwhile, PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and president, Mehbooba Mufti termed the death of Moulvi Ansari as a “great loss to the society”.
“Molvi Sahib was a versatile personality who will be always remembered for his impeccability and praise worthy services to the society,” they said in a statement.
The leaders said the deceased was not only a religious and spiritual leader of great repute but an outstanding political statesman as well. “As a young scholar he had studied in Iraq and Iran and was man of words with an in-depth knowledge on varied subjects ranging from politics, history to religious philosophy,” the Muftis added. “With the demise of Molvi Sahib the state has lost a seasoned politician, outstanding Islamic scholar, wonderful orator and an outspoken advocate of unity,” they said.
Recalling his long association with the deceased, Mufti said Molvi Ansari had been a lifelong friend and associate who will be missed always.
Immediately on hearing the demise of Ansari, Mufti, Begum Mufti Sayeed, the party president Mehbooba Mufti, Members of Parliament, Muzzafar Hussain Baig and Tariq Hameed Karra, other legislators and senior leaders rushed to his residence to share the grief of family, the statement said.
Iranian envoy in India has also expressed sorrow at the demise of Ansari.
In his condolence message, Ambassador Ghulam Reza Ansari, said, “I have received the news of the demise of Maulana Iftikhar Hussain Ansari with great regret and sorrow. I express condolences on behalf of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in India over the death of this great Islamic scholar and pray to the Almighty to grant him high stations in the hereafter and patience and reward to his survivors, particularly his brothers, wife and children”.
The message described Ansari as a “great servant of Islam and people of Kashmir.”
Conveying his condolences to the people of Kashmir particularly the Shia community, the Ambassador said, “Maulana Iftikhar will always be remembered together with the eminent preachers of Islam and the great servants of the great people of Kashmir and will remain imprinted in the history of this region”. (with PTI inputs)