Peace Advocate, Ex-Hurriyat Chairman Abbas Ansari Dies in Srinagar
Maulana Abbas Ansari. Image Courtesy: Twitter/@Junaid_Mattu
Srinagar: Maulana Mohammad Abbas Ansari, prominent Shia leader and former chief of the separatist bloc, All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), died in Srinagar on Tuesday after a prolonged illness. He was 86.
Ansari was amongst the founding members of the Hurriyat Conference and one of the key mentors of senior Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq after his father’s assassination in May 1990.
His death was condoled widely by people and leaders from both separatist and mainstream sides in the region, including the National Conference (NC), the People’s Conference (PC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
“Deeply saddened to hear about the unfortunate demise of Islamic scholar, reformer and preacher Molvi Mohd Abbas Ansari Sahab. May Allah grant him Jannatul Firdous,” NC spokesperson Tanvir Sadiq tweeted.
President of PDP Mehbooba Mufti, while expressing her condolences, said that Ansari led a life dedicated to the causes of peace and unity in the restive region.
“Maulana Abbas Ansari sb lived a life dedicated to the cause of peace and Islam. An ardent advocate of unity who led a pious and a humble life. He leaves behind a rich legacy etched into the hearts and minds of people of Kashmir,” she wrote on Twitter.
A local of Downtown Srinagar’s Khankhai Sokhta locality, Ansari completed his higher education in Islamic sciences in the city of Najaf in central Iraq. Later, he became one of the leading activists of various social and political movements in Jammu and Kashmir.
He led a mass agitation known as the Holy Relic uprising while being a part of the Awami Action Committee in year 1963 when tens of thousands of Kashmiris took to streets to protests against an alleged theft of Moi Muqadas or holy relic from Hazrat Bal shrine. It was a year after he had returned from Najaf and founded Anjuman-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen.
In the midst of heightened political affairs, Ansari became a point man for the Muslim United Front (MUF), an umbrella under which several parties fought the 1987 elections in Kashmir. He was later arrested as authorities launched a crackdown on MUF candidates. Following his release, he co-founded the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), steering regional politics in a new direction.
A statement from the Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat conference stated that Ansari, who had been mostly away from the political scene for the last five years, spent his entire life advocating for Shia-Sunni unity and the cause of “self-determination” of the people of Kashmir. “[These are] Causes for which he suffered torture and prison at the hands of the Indian state since the 1960s,” the statement read.
He was appointed as Hurriyat chairman in 2003 and became involved in talks with both India and Pakistan in the following years.
“It was under his chairmanship, Hurriyat was successful in negotiating a ceasefire in the 2000s, opening up the line of control for families and peace talks with the Indian and Pakistani governments,” the APHC said in the statement.
During the talks, however, Ansari faced opposition from Geelani and the militant outfits who threatened him with serious consequences. Ansari was part of the delegation that met the then Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani in 2004. It later also led several rounds of talks with former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who Ansari back then called an “apostle of peace”. The talks, however, failed.
The Shia leader wrote an autobiography titled “Khare Gulistan” or Thorn of Garden, which was released in 2018. Ansari is the fourth top leader from the Hurriyat to have died since last year after the deaths of Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, Syed Ali Geelani and Altaf Ahmad Shah.
“His contribution to the social and religious spheres is remarkable. He also played an instrumental role in harmonising relations between the communities. Deep condolences,” CPI (M) leader M Y Tarigami said.
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