Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, 77, died inside a hospital in southern Jammu city, where he was in detention since July 2020. He was a prominent pro-freedom leader in Indian illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and the president of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.
The news was confirmed by the Government Medical College hospital in Jammu. Reportedly, he had developed “respiratory stress” while he was under detention of the Indian central government.
All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) accused authorities of not taking his health condition seriously. It issued a statement remarking, “Despite repeated appeals to release political prisoners lodged in various jails on humanitarian grounds in view of the devastating Covid catastrophe, authorities are playing with their lives.”
Sehrai was kept off from his family members and lawyers. Lodged inside Udhampur jail, 200km from his home, his family says they have not been able to see him for five months as the meetings in the jails were barred.
Sehrai was detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA), a law that allows detentions without trial for up to one year.
He was a symbol of the freedom movement like Syed Ali Gilani. Sehrai devoted his life to the freedom of Kashmir while sacrificing his son and close relatives. He spent most of his life in prison.
Sehrai remained a close aide of Geelani and their association dates back to the 1960s when they were part of Jamat-e-Islam, a local version of Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen or Muslim Brotherhood.
The demand of Kashmiris
Kashmiris across the world showed extreme grief and demanded the President as well as the Prime Minister of Pakistan to raise the Kashmir issue at the United Nations (UN) and Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC). It is being demanded that PM Imran Khan must alarm the world that the lives of Hurriyat leaders and other detainees are in danger.
Recently, Pakistan expressed “deep grief” over Sehrai’s death, saying the Kashmiri leader was arrested last year on trumped-up charges.
PM Khan tweeted that he was deeply saddened by the demise of Kashmiri leader Ashraf Sehrai.
Deeply saddened by demise of Kashmiri ldr Ashraf Sehrai in illegal Indian custody. India's oppression of Kashmiris is a blot on int community's collective conscience. We will continue to support Kashmiris' just struggle for right to self-determination in acc with UNSC Resolutions
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) May 5, 2021
The Foreign Office (FO) stated that “he remained incarcerated in Indian jail under squalid conditions despite the serious deterioration of his health and the prevailing Covid-19 crisis.”
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he was deeply saddened over Sehrai’s passing.
FM said Sehrai made a “significant contribution to the Kashmiris’ struggle for their right to self-determination and suffered lifelong persecution at the hands of India”.
A statement by FO and FM and a tweet by PM is not enough to highlight the plight of Kashmiri leaders; Pakistan must openly support the freedom fighters.
House of Ashraf Sehrai shb when his son Junaid Sehrai was martyred. pic.twitter.com/nfJnaCrbBF
— Madness (@MadnessMadii) May 5, 2021
The situation in Kashmir
India claims it conducted local body elections in the region but critics say the local bodies have no legislative powers.
Since August 5, 2019, the Indian government has committed gross violations of human rights. It has detained thousands of youth. Many operations have been staged to take the lives of young Kashmiris. Recently in April, Indian troops in their acts of state terrorism martyred seven more Kashmiri youth in Pulwama and Shopian districts.
Kashmir Media Service reported that 95723 civilians including women and children from January 1989 to December 2020, 306 civilians since August 5, 2019, and 263 civilians in the year 2020 have been killed by the occupying Indian security forces in IIOJK.
May Allah grant him higher rank in Jannah, sabr to his family, colleagues and supporters. May his able successors continue to carry forward his legacy & the struggle. Salam, Qaid, Salam!
— Sharjeel Usmani (@SharjeelUsmani) May 5, 2021
BJP-RSS PM Narendra Modi’s unilateral and illegal actions in IIOJK are in parallel with Israel’s illegal actions in the occupied West Bank (Palestine). It only shows the Indian fascist government’s devilish designs of turning occupied Jammu and Kashmir territory into another Palestine.
Pakistan must make use of the time and opportunity to highlight the Kashmir issue so that the sacrifice of Sehrai can be accounted for.