Srinagar, Kashmir operated by India – A prominent Indian human rights activist in Kashmir, India, Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, has died in a hospital just south of Jammu, where he was detained last year. He was 77 years old.
An employee at Government Medical College Hospital in Jammu said the COVID-19 report was poor but began to “breathe hard”. India has seen coronavirus infections and deaths in the past few weeks.
All parties to the Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), affiliated with civil society groups in the region, criticized the authorities for not paying much attention to their health.
“While they have repeatedly called for the release of inmates who are being held in various prisons for humanitarian reasons because of the Covid tragedy, officials are playing with their lives,” the statement said.
Sehrai was the President of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, a Kashmir human rights group that promotes the integration of Kashmir with neighboring Pakistan. He was detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA), a law that allows for up to one year without parole.
Sehrai was second in command to Syed Ali Geelani, one of Kashmir’s most prominent leaders who has been in prison for many years.
Sehrai had long been a major supporter of Geelani and their alliances began in the 1960s when they were members of Jamat-e-Islam, the local Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen or Muslim Brotherhood.
India has built thousands of Kashmiris, including well-known leaders, as part of a major coup following the overthrow of the Himalayan minority on August 5, 2019. The only Islamic region in India is now directly controlled by the Ministry of Housing.
India says it has held local government elections but critics say local bodies do not have the power to legislate.
Sehrai’s son, Junaid Ashraf, was the supreme leader of the Pakistani outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen. Ashraf was shot dead in the capital city of Srinagar in May 2019. Sehrai was arrested and detained a few months later.
‘We are not allowed to meet’
After living inside the Udhampur prison, 200km (124 miles) from his home, his family says they could not see him for five months as meetings in prison were banned due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Their son Mujahid Sehrai said the family was informed last night of his father’s health.
“We received a call that he was in a coma and took him to the hospital. I booked a ticket and arrived in Jammu in the afternoon. From then on, I was waiting for his body and we were told he had other things to finish.
Mujahid said his father suffered from various ailments including bronchitis and his condition worsened in prison.
“We sent her medicine every month from home. We also applied to the hospital and asked for permission, but to no avail, ”he said.
Mujahid said his father was allowed to make phone calls once a week but since the last two weeks he has not called.
“The last time he spoke, he told us that he was in pain and feeling weak. He was fasting and was not receiving proper food in prison,” Mujahid said.
Last week, the wife of a detained leader who was arrested Ayaz Akbar died of cancer at her home. But Akbar, according to his family, was not allowed to die at his funeral.
With the second wave in India, Kashmiri prison families have demanded that their relatives who have been imprisoned in various parts of India be released on parole, fearing for their safety.
Mehbooba Mufti, the region’s prime minister, also demanded the immediate release of political prisoners.
“The least thing GOI can do in such a situation is to release the prisoners on parole,” he sent a statement following Sehrai’s death to the Indian government.
Jammu and the Kashmir High Court Bar Association (JKHCBA), a district attorney general in the region, say they are “in custody” and have asked for an independent inquiry into Sehrai’s murder.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the JKHCBA said it had filed three complaints in court highlighting Sehrai’s heart condition. “Surprisingly, no order has been issued for all three applications,” the letter said, adding that the agency was “deeply concerned” by the way courts were working to combat “civil liberties and non-compliance”.