Sunday September 19, 2021

Detained Kashmiri leader Ashraf Sehrai dies in custody

Sehrai was in custody since last year when he was booked under the Public Safety Act; his health deteriorated yesterday
May 05, 2021
Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Chairman Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai. — Photo courtesy The Kashmir Press

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.

Booked under the draconian Public Safety Act, Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai was shifted to Udhampur Jail in Jammu on July 12, 2020. His condition deteriorated in jail and he was shifted yesterday to a hospital in Jammu where he died, Kashmir Media Service reported on Wednesday.

Sehrai was suffering from multiple diseases and was not provided with any treatment during his incarceration.

His family members were kept unaware of his health condition.

He was nearly 80 years old.

He all throughout his life worked as a lieutenant of Syed Ali Geelani, and was a member of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Pakistan expresses grief at Sehrai’s death

Responding to the Kashmiri leader's death, the Pakistani government and said it was deeply grieved.

“India’s blatant attempts to portray the legitimate Kashmiri struggle as terrorism, and to prosecute its leaders through concocted cases, is a clear violation of the UN Charter, UN Security Council and UN General Assembly resolutions, and international human rights and humanitarian law,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

"As the COVID-19 situation in India deteriorates, we also remain deeply concerned over the health and safety of the incarcerated Kashmiri leaders as well as other innocent Kashmiris, languishing in jails at undisclosed locations," it added.

The FO noted that most of these jails were overcrowded and did not have any provision for precautions against the COVID-19.

"Reportedly, some of the Kashmiri leaders in Indian jails have already contracted coronavirus. Unfortunately, they are not even provided any medical treatment. Given the worst pandemic situation in India, the Indian Government must immediately release the incarcerated Kashmiri leadership and all innocent Kashmiris," it said.

The incarcerated Kashmiri leaders include Aasiya Andrabi, Muhammad Yasin Malik, Shabir Ahmed Shah, Advocate Shahid-ul-Islam, Altaf Ahmed Shah, Nayeem Ahmed Khan, Ayaz Akbar, Peer Saifullah, Raja Merajuddin Kalwal, Syed Shahid Yousuf, Shakeel Ahmed, Farooq Ahmed Dar, Fehmeeda Sofi, Nahida Nasreen, Zahoor Ahmed, and others.

Many others are under house arrest including Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, it said.

The Foreign Office once again called upon the United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to urge India to drop all fabricated charges against political leaders of IOJK and provide them complete legal protections, including the right to a free and fair trial.

APHC condemns custodial death

APHC strongly condemned the custodial death of Sehrai.

In a news release, APHC Vice Chairman Ghulam Ahamad Gulzar denounced the "ruthless behaviour and barbaric attitude of the Indian Imperialism" towards the freedom loving leaders kept in solitude in various jails of India, without medical facilities and other basic amenities.

Paying rich tribute to the great freedom leader, Gulzar termed the death of Sehrai a sheer act of deliberate custodial killing for which the sole responsibility lay with the Modi-led fascist regime.

He urged United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres to take serious cognizance of the death.

He also appealed to the freedom loving people of Kashmir to observe a complete general strike on May 6 (tomorrow) to record protest against the custodial killing of the veteran Hurriyat leader.

'Deeply saddened'

National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf said he was “deeply saddened” by the death of Sehrai.

“He dedicated his life for Kashmir’s self-determination. Many more Kashmiri leaders are at risk in IIOJK. It is India’s responsibility to release all those detained on political grounds to create conducive environment,” wrote Yusuf.

'In today's India, one pays with his life for dissent'

Mehbooba Mufti, President Jammu and Kashmir People Democratic Party, in her condolence message said “like him, countless political prisoners and other detainees from J&K continue to be jailed purely for their ideologies & thought process.”

“In today’s India one pays a price with his life for dissent.”

“The least GOI [Government of India] can do in such dangerous circumstances is to immediately release these detainees on parole so that they return home to their families," she said.

Tremendous loss to freedom struggle

Jammu Kashmir National Conference (JKNF) also expressed its deep sense of shock and grief over the death.

JKNF central vice chairman and senior Hurriyat leader Altaf Hussain Wani said that the distinguished leader was a visionary and ideologically strong political leader. “He never compromised on his principles,” he said, and added that his death is a tremendous loss to the Kashmir freedom struggle.

The JKNF leader called for the early release of all Kashmiri political leaders languishing arbitrarily in different Indian as well as occupied Jammu & Kashmir jails and were being deprived of proper medical facilities.