Only family and a few relatives allowed to perform last rites at his native Kupwara village
SRINAGAR: Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chief Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai was laid to rest at ‘martyrs’ graveyard before dawn on Thursday at his native village Tekipora in Kupwara.
The 77-year-old leader died away from his family in custody in Jammu on Wednesday. Battling multiple diseases, he was booked under the Public Safety Act last year and imprisoned more than a hundred kilometre away from his home in Jammu’s Udhampur jail. On Tuesday evening, he was shifted to Jammu hospital after his health condition deteriorated and subsequently he passed away the following day on Wednesday. With condemnations pouring in for imprisoning an aged political leader and his death, the government has not issued a word about the cause of his death.
A family member told Kashmir Reader that Sehrai’s body reached the hometown at 4 am and the last rites were performed within half an hour.
He said that the funeral was attended by family members and a few relatives.
“The body left for Jammu around 6 pm, more than five hours after he passed away. During this time, they (doctors) performed an autopsy on the body and completed other legal formalities. It reached home by 4 am,” the family member added.
The political heir to veteran leader Syed Ali Geelani, the body of Sehrai was ferried to Kupwara from Jammu in a private ambulance after travelling for more than 10 hours.
His son Mujahid Sehrai, who had reached Jammu yesterday afternoon after his father passed away, accompanied the body. The family paid Rs 25,000 to the ambulance for the journey, they said.
At Tekipora village in Kupwara, teams of police and paramilitary forces were deployed by authorities to avoid any untoward incident. Locals said that people from other surrounding villages were not allowed to visit the Tekipora from Wednesday evening till Thursday.
At the time of his arrest last year, his son Mujahid said his father was suffering from bronchitis, diabetes, blood pressure, kidney issues, prostrate, heart ailment and hearing impairment. Every year in October, he would be administered a vaccine shot but it could not be given last year owing to his arrest. A petition before the High Court seeking medical care for Sehrai remained unheard, he added.
The hearing of Sehrai’s petition was listed on April 16 but it was not heard because the judge was absent, Mujahid said.
Sehrai had spoken to his family ten days ago on the phone during which he had complained about back pain, lack of appetite, and general weakness, Mujahid said. He was scheduled to call on Friday but he did not and then the call was expected on Saturday and Monday, but the phone did not ring.
“He passed away without meeting us,” Mujahid rued.
His youngest son, a management graduate Junaid Ashraf Sehrai, was a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander and was killed by government forces in a gunfight in Srinagar’s Nawa Kadal area in May last year.
Born in Lolab area of north Kashmir in 1944, Sehrai joined Jamaat-e-Islami in 1959, taking cue from his elder brother. Five years later he was jailed for the first time. He was later imprisoned many times, his prison time spanning over two decades. During his young days, he worked with Geelani in various capacities, until 2004 when Geelani departed from the parent organisation, Jamaat-e-Islami. Geelani was joined by Sehrai, and they together stitched the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat which became one of the main resistance political fronts in Jammu and Kashmir. Sehrai rose from the ranks of General Secretary to its chairman in 2018.
“Burial of separatist leader Late Ashraf Shehrai completed as per Covid #protocol in presence of family members at his native place,” tweeted Inspector General of Police Kashmir Vijay Kumar.