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Ashraf Sehrai
Chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat
In office
19 May 2018[1] – May 2021
Preceded bySyed Ali Shah Geelani[2]
Personal details
Born1944 (1944)
Tekipora, Lolab Valley, Jammu and Kashmir
Died5 May 2021(2021-05-05) (aged 76–77)
Jammu and Kashmir, India[3]
Political partyTehreek-e-Hurriyat
Alma materAligarh Muslim University
Mohammad Ashraf Khan (1944 – 5 May 2021), chiefly known as Ashraf Sehrai or just as Sehrai (loosely meaning wanderer), was a Kashmiri separatist leader and chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, a united political front formed during the Kashmir conflict. He was elected chairman through a first-ever election conducted in the history of Hurriyat when Syed Ali Shah Geelani relinquished office due to his deteriorating health.
1 Life and background
2 Education
3 Political activities
3.1 Detentions
4 Death
5 References
6 See also
Life and background
Sehrai was born in 1944 in Tekipora village of Lolab Valley in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir to Shams-ud-din Khan. His ancestors had migrated from areas now part of modern-day Pakistan to Kashmir. He also has two elder brothers. One of them is Muhammad Yousuf Khan, one of the founders of Tehreek-e-Islami, who died in 2016. The other is Qamar-ud-din Khan, a renowned member of Jamat-e-Islami in the Lolab area who died in 2009.
As a student, he used to show an interest in religious and political discussions. He also has an interest in poems and literature and also authored writings as well as poems, most of which were published in "Azaan" and "Tulu" magazines. He started publishing Tulu in 1969 from Sopore. Sehrai commissioned articles, took care of its design as well as printing and also wrote for the column called Safa-e-Paksitan which covered the events happening in Pakistan. He and Syed Ali Shah Geelani dedicated a special issue to Allama Iqbal in which they both wrote lengthy columns against Kashmiri socialists and a writer called Ashia Bhat while also defending the magazine and Jamaat-e-Islami, after the magazine's claim of Iqbal not being a socialist led to a controversy.
He is the father of six children, including four sons and two daughters. His youngest son Junaid Ashraf Khan became a militant in March 2018, joining Hizbul Mujahideen. Another of Sehrai's sons is named Rashid Ashraf. Two of his other sons are named Khalid and Abid Ashraf.
Sehrai has stated that he never expected Junaid to become a militant, but won't request him to return. Junaid later became Hizbul's divisional commander, but was killed in an encounter with the CRPF and J&K Police on 19 May 2020. Sehrai personally led his funeral prayers attended by about 300 people despite the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sehrai has completed his primary education in his hometown Tekipora and secondary education from Sogam Lolab High School in 1959. After clearing secondary examination, he moved to Uttar Pradesh where he did Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Urdu from Aligarh Muslim University.
Political activities
Sehrai became an affiliate of Syed Ali Shah Geelani in 1959 after being encouraged to do so by his elder brother. He has stated that he officially became a member as a "rukun" of Jamaat-e-Islami in 1960. Sehrai was jailed for the first time in 1965 over anti-government activities after he delivered a speech criticising Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq's government for repression of free speech and arrest of members of the Moh-e-Muqaddas Majlis-e-Amal. After he started focusing on the Tulu magazine, JeI cadres complained about him staying away from the organization's activities and the magazine was thus shut down in 1971.
After the JeI expelled Geelani following the formation of his own Hurriyat Conference party due to opposition to a dialogue with the central Indian government, Sehrai also left the group and was appointed as Tehreek-e-Hurriyat's general secretary in 2004 during its foundation. Following the 2016-17 Kashmir unrest, National Investigation Agency published a report to address his involvement in issuing protest calanders and carrying out anti-India activities.
He was appointed as the acting chairman by Tehreek-e-Hurriyat's Majlis-e-Shoora on 19 March 2018. Later, he was elected as the chairman for 3 years on 19 August by a margin of 410 votes out of a total of 433, in the first-ever Hurriyat election since Geelani stepped down.
He was among the other separatist leaders detained during the state-wide lockdown imposed aimed at to revoke special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Later in July 2020, he was arrested from Barzulla Baghat area of Srinagar by the Jammu and Kashmir police under the Public Safety Act. On 4th May 2021 Sehrai was admitted in GMC Jammu due to deteriorated health, where he died on 5th May 2021.
He was arrested under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act in July 2020 and was serving imprisonment in district jail of Udhampur. His health deteriorated on 4 May. He was subsequently admitted to the Government Medical College, Jammu and died on 5 May in the hospital after COVID-19 symptoms were diagnosed, resulting in failure of oxygen level.
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