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Obituary: Jailbird’s Journey

Obituary: Jailbird’s Journey

Living up to his word and wish to meet his son’s fate, Mohammad Ashraf Khan Sehrai passed away in the seclusion of his captivity. His demise has only drawn curtains over the sixty-year-long eventful political career dented by detentions.


Kashmir’s deserted streets amid another lockdown seem to have retreated a year back to the holy month, when a whole neighbourhood in Srinagar was burnt to ashes. 

The ‘guerilla descendant’ of a father who had lived by his name had fallen after his short stint in the armed ranks.

Barely two months after his militant son’s killing, Mohammad Ashraf Khan Sehrai was arrested from his Srinagar residence, booked under Public Safety Act, and lodged in Udhampur Jail.

A year later, the caged and aged Hurriyat patron breathed his last after a brief ailment in a Jammu hospital.

I shall see his face and meet him in the heavens,” had aged father Sehrai responded to an inquiring voice on his son’s body return.

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For no reason, I’m wailing for my son’s body. My son is no special among those who already laid their today for our tomorrow.”

Junaid Sehrai wasn’t the first to be laid to rest away from the family congregation and a celebrated farewell.

Among the mourners turning up at Sehrai’s Hyderpora residence last year was a man whose quiet association with the fallen leader goes back to the early 90s.

To him, the expert of Iqbaliyat who spoke of Syed Qutub, Hassan-ul-Banna and Omer Mukhtar in the prison, for no reason was to keep the guard low even on the occasion of his son’s death.

“His scholarly take would always lift the mood of the prison mates back then,” the militant turned trader recalled. “And it is no different now.”

Sehrai as TeH chief.
MI PHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

After stepping up as successor of the man whose shadow he had remained for almost six decades, a new headman had lashed out at the top cop for his comment to ‘call back his son’: “My son’s decision is my son’s decision.”

On seeking the reason for not considering the motion, the response from ‘the man of an unflinching stand’ came for no surprise: “Why should I? Am I Sheikh Abdullah, or Mir Qasim, or Sadiq, or Ghulam Rasool Kaar. I’m a believer of one lord and in whose existence the sentiment of freedom floats in every vein.

To have gone through countless prisons during his lifetime, the ‘revivalist’ many believe suffered mainly for his ‘stern conviction’.

But every time his arrival surfaced to settle the boat caught up in the troubled waters.

During a private gathering.
MI PHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

His incarceration began during the 1960s when he had already met Syed Ali Geelani and was inspired by his ideological inclinations and influences.

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Soon the new face was to gain prominence in the Jama’at-e-Islami carders for pitching the launch of its student wing that later was to be known as Jameet-e-touliba.

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A diligent son of Khans of Lolab with roots in Pakistan, Sehrai was to accompany mostly his guide Geelani over the years from one prison to another.

The sharp Urdu speaking skills and the fiery speeches brought Sehrai to the larger political picture and soon Jama’at fielded him as a candidate in a few elections.

The ‘man of his word’ was unusually the odd one to speak out: “The Jama’at’s participation in the elections was always a wrong decision and so was the miscalculated win of MUF in the rigged elections of 1987.

His association with Jama’at remained till his leader along with him made a clear choice in 2004. Post-parting, Sehrai along with Geelani became the “political patron” of the protracted struggle.

After appointed as TeH chief in March 2018, Sehrai was to calm another chaos, to which he addressed the other side as the ‘light of my eyes’.

Soon the confusion was drowned away by his son’s new guard.

The edge in Sehrai’s approach many believe was the common ground he was able to identify between Islamist politics and the contemporary world order.

Almost a year later the social media is stormed by quotes and balaads Sehrai would sing for his son’s fate. 

Never the less, he met the same fate: ‘Khuda ka shukur hai yun khatima bilkhair hona tha’ (Glory to God for this just end).

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