Mufti Mohammad Sayeed
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A biographical sketch
The Times of India Jan 08 2016
Sagarika Ghose & Sameer Arshad
Mufti Stood His Ground As Reconciler For 5 Decades
Dara Shikhoh was Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's in spiration. In Mufti's home town of Bijbehara, Dara Shikoh the 17th century Mughal prince who translated the Upanishads, had created a Mughal garden. Mufti Sayeed wanted to make this garden a tourist spot to showcase his own belief in coexistence. That dream lies unfulfilled, as Jammu and Kashmir's lion in winter has passed away before the snows have melted in Gulmarg.
He passed away five days before his 80th birthday , ending a long career as the consistent unionist in Jammu & Kashmir's politics. In a political career that stretched back to the early 1960s, Mufti Sayeed would often say “main toh Nehru ke zamaane ka neta hoon“. In many ways he was a Nehruvian politician, more statesman than mass leader, someone who believed in the politics of consensus rather than confrontation, to bridge the gap between Srinagar and Delhi.
Sayeed first became a legislator a year after Jayaprakash Narayan wrote to PM Indira Gandhi protesting the `rule by force in Kashmir' while denouncing the 1957 and 1962 elections as `anything but free and fair'. Sayeed kept on the right side of Delhi even as men of his age began dabbling in separatism.
His career nearly peaked in the 1970s when he came a hair's breadth from becoming J&K's youngest chief minister when the Congress pulled the plug on Abdullah's government in 1977. Indira had handed over power to Abdullah two years earlier despite enjoying majority in the assembly . Abdullah was rewarded for endorsing the erosion of J&K's special status and abandoning the plebiscite demand.
But things soon came to a head, forcing Congress to withdraw support. Sayeed was Abdullah's natural successor as the head of state Congress. But Abdullah nixed then 41-year-old Sayeed's chances by recommending assembly dissolution that marked the beginning of the Mufti-Abdullah rivalry. Sayeed got back at the Abdullahs when he split their party NC to topple Farooq Abdullah's government in 1984. But the state's top post continued to elude him as Farooq buried the hatchet with the Congress and aligned with it ahead of the 1987 elections that sparked the insurgency .
Although a Congressman at heart, Sayeed broke away from the Rajiv Gandhi government to join hands with VP Singh's Jan Morcha, even becoming home minister in the VP regime. His tenure coincided with Delhi's brutal response to the Kashmiri insurgency . Mufti stayed the course while many of his former assembly colleagues opted for separatism.
In 1989 he negotiated the release of his daughter Rubaiyah Sayeed with the JKLF militants -a move that many believe gave a fillip to militancy . Thirteen years later in 2002, Mufti was at the helm in Kashmir after a spectacular electoral debut as head of People's Democratic Party with Congress support. At this time he initiated a healing touch policy designed to reach out to those who he described as `misguided youth'. Always a firm believer in dialogue with Pakistan it was on his initiative that a Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service was started and that `insaaniyat' became the new buzzword in dealing with militancy .
Whether it was sharing a stage with A B Vajpayee, embracing Sonia Gandhi or taking the ultimate step of allying with Narendra Modi in a PDP-BJP government, no one was an untouchable for Mufti. “A PDP-BJP government is a historic opportunity for J&K and for India,“ he had told TOI in an interview, defying sceptics who questioned the Valley's equation with a Modi-led BJP .
It is that delicate equation which Mufti was able to hold together, which is now a challenge for daughter Mehbooba Mufti. The encouraging paterfamilias to his daughters and his party , Mufti would often say , “I am a politician who sits in the drawing room, it's my daughter who is the mass leader“. The fiery Mehbooba is prone to confront where Mufti pragmatically reconciled, and while she built the PDP , on the ground it was her father's experience that enabled him to build bridges with political rivals.
Mufti stood in firm repudiation of Jinnah's two-nation theory , Hindus and Muslims are one nation in India he would say , even though the special conditions under which J&K acceded to India must be accepted. He counted many Kashmiri Pandits as friends. Educated at a madrassa, then going on to study law at the AMU, Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb was his worldview.
In today's bitter, oftenabusive politics, the always immaculately dressed gentlemanly Mufti Sayeed was a reminder of a more genteel era of politics, when even bitter rivals sat across a table and worked towards consensus.
It is in the spirit of Mufti Sayeed that he will be buried in Dara Shikoh's garden in Bijbehara.
Dec 24 2014
He couldn't be youngest J&K CM, but may be the oldest
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was state Congress chief came within a whisker of becoming J&K's youngest CM in March 1977 when Congress pulled the plug on Sheikh Abdullah's government. Two years earlier, despite her party's majority in the house, PM Indira Gandhi had allowed Abdullah to take office, a reward for endorsing the erosion of J&K's special status and abandoning his plebiscite plank. Soon things came to a head. Congress withdrew support.
As PCC chief, Sayeed was Abdullah's natural successor. But Abdullah nixed that, recommending the assembly's dissolution, upheld by then governor L K Jha. That put paid to 41-year-old Sayeed's ambition of making history and marked the beginning of a classic political rivalry.Sayeed, who turns 78 in January , had helped engineer the toppling of Farooq Abdullah's government in 1984 -working closely with then governor Jagmohan. But the state's top post still eluded him as Farooq made up with Congress, aligning with it ahead of the 1987 elections.
Sayeed quit Congress to be made Union home minister in V P Singh's Jan Morcha government in 1989, the first Muslim to hold the post. His elevation came as a quid pro quo deal where hardliner Jagmohan -whose counter-insurgency policies are blamed for worsening the situation -was made gover nor. The deal was struck as BJP -whipping anti-Muslim frenzy and supporting Singh's government -was unhappy with Sayeed's appointment. Sayeed's failed to shrug off the taint of his 1984 association with Jagmohan. His opponents rake this up, while NC highlights how Farooq resigned in 1990 against Jagmohan's appointment as governor.
He had a tumultuous tenure as Union home minister during which his daughter Rubaiya was kidnapped and released in exchange of five jailed militants. Sayeed's sup porters cite the kidnapping to swear by his incorruptible lifestyle, saying Rubaiya was abducted while travel ling on a public bus despite being the second-most powerful Indi an's daughter. Sayeed's aides say he's self-made, having built his career through hard work.
Sayeed left Congress in 1999 to form People's Democratic Party , whose win in its electoral debut in the 2002 polls propelled him to the state's top post. As CM, he made his `healing touch' cornerstone of his policies, ushering in a decline in militant violence.
He expected Congress to al low him to continue after three years in office but had to hand over the baton to Ghulam Nabi Azad as part of the power sharing deal in 2005. NC formed government in 2008 even as PDP increased both seats and vote share. Its mismanagement after the recent floods gave Sayeed an edge.
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
A cult figure
A Universal truth- Everything has to perish. There is no exception to this phenomenon. Irrespective of the degree of the success in world affairs, one has to die someday. It is also a fact that people who think ahead of their times are mostly missed and properly interpretated after their death. The recent example of this fact is the death of our Quaid Jinab Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. It is only after his death that one realises how much political space he had occupied and more importantly what he stood for.
I consider myself privileged to have known Mufti Sahab since long and more intimately from the day PDP was formed which dates back to 1999. His was a personality who would impress you constantly be it the way he talked- the way he conducted himself, the way he gave space to others, the way he strategized, the way he executed his plans…. In short, he was having all these qualities in superlative degree. But to my mind, certain qualities made him stand tall among his contemporaries. Such qualities are rarely possessed and can be categorised as;
1. Being affectionate,
2. Being magnanimous
3. Having an extra ordinary acumen of state craft and
4. His Political Vision.
I have been fortunate to have remained closely associated with Mufti Sahab as his PRO from 2002-2005, as MLA from 2008-2014 and someone who had access to him at any point of time. In this process, I have closely observed, how the Master was at work. And I am witness to many incidents which showed his affection, magnanimity and style of his working and manifestation of his political ideology.
All along I have found Mufti Sahab very affectionate to all, irrespective of their standing. He was extremely affectionate to his grass root workers and remembered their problems and ensured mitigation. An instance comes to my mind. One Ghulam Rasool Mantoo of Chittergul Shangus had remained associated with Mufti Sahab during his congress days. In 2003, GR Mantoo came to saw Mufti Sahab in Jammu. Being his PRO Mufti Sahab directed me to ensure his accommodation in Jammu and told me that the rent and other expenses will be from Mufti Sahab’s pocket and he ensured that this arrangement worked till Mantoo died in 2005. Moreover, his affection was above political considerations, which I realised in 2009, when Mantoo’s son came to him and after listening to him, Mufti sahib asked me to ensure some assistance to the family, when I told Mufti sahib the family was not with PDP, I was highly impressed by his calibre when I understood that his affection was above political considerations.
He would always act fatherly with all his associates. I also been privileged to have travelled a lot with Mufti Sahab within and outside India and during such times spent some moments with him, which have left lasting impression on my mind. He would actually treat me like his son. And would see, whether I am dressed properly, eaten properly, slept properly. During our Hajj pilgrimage in 2004 when he was heading the goodwill delegation from India, Mufti Sahib was accommodated in a suite in Makkah and Madinah and I had a room adjacent. But he would never allow me to use my room and asked me to remain with his suite. There are numerous instances, where I have seen that as a person, he was extremely affectionate.
These small gestures made everybody around him comfortable and around being loved. Even when we used to visit his residence often, he would offer noon chai and sattu, a homemade simple lunch, just to make us feel part of family.
Mufti Sahab was a real exponent of ‘high thinking and simple living’. Despite rising to high political positions, the atmosphere in his house was as that of a common Kashmiri family. That is perhaps of the reasons, which did not attract him to worldly comforts and kept him away from menace of corruption, which most of politicians are accused of in the present era.
Being a politician and being magnanimous and thought to be opposite to each other, but Mufti sahib had the capacity of being both. He was magnanimous not only in worldly affairs, but in politics also. I am witness to many instances, when Mufti Sahab would reprimand us whenever we spoke against our political opponents. This was not a political expediency, but his belief in the role and position of his political opponents. He would always tell us to speak what you have to say about your own policies without criticising your opponents. My colleagues in the assembly will also bear testimony to this. Even in the heat of elections would not deviate him from this mantra as during the public rallies, he would also stick to his ideal. This magnanimity which I now understand was practised by Mufti Sahab to purify the political milieu and not to pollute it… that way contributing to overall political process.
He was a person with a big heart and chosen to do bigger things. He would repeatedly advice us not to fall in pity issues, but pursue bigger goals. Sometimes, I have felt that as CM, he was not enjoying while deciding small issues like allotment of accommodation and would react by saying to me as his PRO, do it at your level as I have to do bigger things. On the contrary, I have found many CM’s more worried about allotment of quarters and vehicles; this is magnanimity at political level. Mufti Sahab had a wonderful and a long memory, he would hardly forget anything particularly the welfare of the people, whether he knew them or not. Some of his decisions would get affected by the concern he had.
Mufti Sahab as I understood now has been a very hard working student of political field and through his sheer hard work and understanding, the nuance of politics he raised to become one of its best acclaimed masters. He knew state craft as the back of his hand which by experience came to him naturally. He had a firm belief that this is the tool through which political ideology can be put to practice and utilise for welfare of the public. He respected his commitments from the core of his heart. And also knew how to stand by his commitments. This in other words meant, “Actions speak louder than words”. He would digress the protocol procedure and as CM would even talk to a low rung official to ensure that the commitment made by him is being followed on the ground. He would always advice us, whenever you make commitment, ensure its implementation.
Coming back to knowledge of Mufti Sahab regarding the state craft, I remember on 13 July 2004, he laid foundation stone of flyover and Kashmir Haat with the direction that he will inaugurate the two projects on the next year on the same date. After about two months, we were leaving secretariat late in the evening, I was sitting on the right side of the vehicle. On reaching near flyover site, he noticed some tin sheets erected on site. He enquired from me about the status and pace of the work going on. I honestly told him, sir, I don’t know. He for a while got irritated, but next moment told me that your job is not to sit with me in the vehicle, but instead it will be better if you could pursue my commitments and bring to my notice, any difficulties being faced by the construction agencies. He advised me to take Naeem Sahab along (who by then was special secretary to CM) and monitor the progress. Thereafter, I and Naeem Sahab would often visit the site and apprise the boss accordingly. That was perhaps the beginning of time bound completion of works in J&K and it was because of Mufti Sahab knowing how to get things done on ground.
Doing justice to the political vision of a man, whose struggle span over more than five decades in a column/article, is almost impossible. It would require a full book to explain the political vision of Mufti Sahab. However, he was so subtle and clear that he communicated his message just in one Kashmiri adage which says, “Baaye myaane Kalandara, ye nere te nere Khalandara”. If we apply our mind critically and objectively to this adage which he often repeated, we can possibly read his mind. What he meant, politically, it conveyed a big message and perhaps a way forward against a popular tide particularly after late 80’s. But such was his understanding and reading of situation that what he said in 1998 in a public meeting at Anantnag as congress MP candidate is now appearing to be more relevant and achievable.
Given the overall world view of politics, this ideology which he practiced throughout in politics meant that there is no limit to our fight, if we restrict it within this system. Whatever, grievances we may have, can be salvaged within the system. He would extremely get grieved by the destruction of human life and property in Jammu and Kashmir and would make us to believe that if we have a political will and conviction to convince the people, such bloodshed can be stopped and the goal achieved which meant to have self rule, where you are masters of your political destiny, make the borders irrelevant, increase people to people contact, have robust trade activities across the divide and have frequent social exchange which may extend to marriages also. This he envisaged without creating huge graveyards. Recent developments of engagement of India and Pakistan, perhaps is an indication that the leadership of two countries has understood what the great man stood for. But alas! after his death.
I am fortunate to have associated with Mufti Sahab closely and can vouch for the pain he felt, whenever he heard about the death of any youth. He always endeavoured to reach out to youth and channelize their energy without compromising their aspirations. Whenever he referred to disgruntled youth, there was an element of affection and respect. He would refer to them as “Hamare Bachche” without using other words, mostly used by mainstream politicians. It is perhaps in this direction, he tried to reach out to such youth by saying, “granades say na goli say, baat bane gi boli say” without making them to compromise. It was perhaps an invitation to them, come and fight whatever you stand for, but within the system.
Seeing him operate, I have found him to be the best political school to learn from and I am sure Mehbooba Ji will step into his shoes comfortably as she has remained admitted in the school for two and a half decades. Without fearing criticism, I would say this with a lot of conviction that Mufti Sahab was not only her father, but a friend, a companion, a guide and a mentor and above all a teacher. Knowing Mehbooba Ji, I am sure that she has learnt her lessons well and is ready to lead.
(The author is former MLA Shangus and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)