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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed:
Politician, Patriot, Peer, Pandit, Paadshah

KEEPING MY PROMISE of expressing my opinion about late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Sahab and his political ideology on occasion of his first death anniversary, I am now exercising my right. Since I have seen most of our contemporary politicians closely without ever having my own newspaper, need to seek loans or advertisements or contracts or transfers and I don't have to contest elections or play to the galleries, I will give my own independent, objective, dispassionate view which may be different from that of many of the esteemed friends. According to my belief, which can be partly or fully wrong, Mufti Sahab sailed against the wind of then popular Plebiscite Front from 1955 to 1965 and he, alongwith friends and colleagues like Mohammad Shafi Qureshi, GM Sadiq etc. played a key role in integrating Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India by sowing the first seeds of the Congress party in Kashmir and collaborating with the Centre in diluting the State's special statutory position. So it stands as incontrovertible evidence that he was New Delhi's agent and representative in Kashmir, not Kashmir's representative in New Delhi. He paid its prices but got equally attractive dividends. He lost all the Assembly and Parliamentary elections in Kashmir till 1998 and to become an MLA he contested and won the elections from RS Pora of Jammu in 1980s. He and his colleagues faced social boycott in Kashmir when NC under Sheikh Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah made the slogan "Mufti sinz qabbar Kashiri nebar" popular in 1970s-80s. To become a Member of Parliament and Union Minister of Tourism, followed by Union Home Minister, he had to contest from Bihar and UP. He won his first and the last Parliamentary election from Kashmir on Congress ticket only in 1998 and later his first Assembly election once from Pahalgam and once from Anantnag. Because of support and faith from Delhi, he became Chief Minister of J&K twice and has the distinction of being till date the only Muslim who was inducted as the Union Home Minister in India. Even before floating his own PDP, and while being in Congress, Mufti Sahab had started expanding his base with destabilising the elected governments in 1970s and 1980s and later in 1990s generating a sentiment with his severe criticism of Farooq Abdullah's anti-militant, anti-separatist and anti-Pakistan politics and governance that ultimately helped him erase much of his regime's massacres and massive human rights abuse in 1990 when he was India's Home Minister. He was an exceptionally shrewd and connected-to-people politician and made lakhs of Kashmiris to believe that Farooq Abdullah had been the architect of the "rigging" in 1987 Assembly elections inspite of the fact that Mufti himself was part and parcel of the Rajiv-Farooq Accord in 1986-87. Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Ghulam Qadir Pardesi, who was District Election Officer in 1987 and has to share maximum responsibility of the alleged rigging, was a founder member and served the media kebabs at the press conference when Mufti Sahab floated PDP in July 1999, months after J&K Legislature passed a resolution unanimously and the Farooq Abdullah government's Autonomy Committee report called on New Delhi to restore 1953 position to the State. One can't be taker to the wild allegations that then PM AB Vajpayee and Home Minister LK Advani paid huge amounts of money to create and promote PDP but it is a fact that the Kashmiri mainstream was never as split as it became post-1999. Being great visionaries, Vajpayee and Advani perhaps wanted to set J&K's politics in such a mould that a Valley-based Muslim-dominated party, be it NC or PDP, should never be able to hold 44-plus seats and thus form the government without making a national party like Congress or BJP a part of the coalition. With such a coalition, autonomy or J&K's special status will never be a consensus demand in Assembly or outside. This goal could not be achieved without bringing NC and PDP to the position where they could win seats in range of 15-30 and run the government by rotation every six years. And this would not be possible until PDP was given a long rope, free hand and license to raise and exploit the secessionist passions with glorification of separatists, militants and Pakistan and while demonising and discrediting the Indian institutions and systems particularly the Army and paramilitary forces and "Farooq Abdullah's Task Force". Thus, while calling for friendship with Pakistan, opening of all roads to Pakistan, release of "political prisoners", prosecution of Police officers and soldiers involved in human rights abuse, space to separatists et al, Mufti Sahab created a political space for PDP in the Valley and in 2002, 2008 and 2014 he managed to get a chunk of vote from the genetically pro-Pakistan and separatist populace that helped him assume power twice. New Delhi's unflinching support and faith made him over-confident to the extent that towards the end of his career and life, he did what few in the Valley had imagined---formation of the government with RSS-driven BJP which, all through campaigning, he had described as a demon and asked the Kashmiris to fail. He was never, and could never have been, what some people like Arnab Goswami called him "pro-separatist" and "pro-Pakistan". It was because of his long rope from New Delhi and remarkable support even from very influential Congress leaders, including Pranab Mukherjee, Ahmad Patel, Digvijay Singh and Makhan Lal Fotedar, that PDP's agenda to unsettle Ghulam Nabi Azad led to fall of the coalition government and subsequently an unprecedented regional and communal divide in J&K in 2008 when the militancy had reduced to a trickle and the separatists had been marginalised by the political developments across the globe post 9/11. It resuscitated what many in Delhi had forgotten as the "dead snake" which is now biting everybody Indian in Kashmir after intervals. It had two devastating manifestations in 2010 and 2016---when Mohammad Shafi Qureshi died in Delhi and India could not hold his burial in Kashmir. Today's competitive separatism among the mainstream parties, including NC and PDP, are an essential consequence of the theatre created in 2008. If NC will return to power in 2020, we will see PDP playing this role in next 6 years. It is now clear that New Delhi does not need genuine, legitimate politics and democratic institutions or patriots and nationalists in J&K. It just needs vote and someone in the chair as CM or Minister. Irrespective of party, New Delhi also needs sustenance of a scenario in which 68% Muslim population or 58 Muslim MLAs in a House of 87 will have no independent say in any matter of policymaking. Our politicians will claim to be "friends of peace with Pakistan" and "peaceful resolution" of the Kashmir issue but the fact is that they have little role in the whole game as long as the separatists will act as the bonded labours of Islamabad and the so-called mainstream politicians will provide the same service to New Delhi. One shall have to make a dispassionate introspection to find as to who are the real beneficiaries of this sort of the political theatre in Kashmir. I believe late Mufti Sahab did a great, unparalleled service to the Indian nation to achieve many of its strategic goals in Kashmir. Once jingoistic, hardcore Indian, Farooq Abdullah is just learning some lessons and making himself attractive for New Delhi by using the language Mufti Sahab did for years. It is well possible that only 4,000 Kashmiris will attend funerals of such politicians and people like Burhan Wani will live as heroes and die as martyrs with 200,000 attending their last rites. But India is least worried about that. Governance and development will become relevant only when this era of Delhi-protected dynastic politics will end in Jammu and Kashmir. Having said about his politics, I have no hesitation to accept that late Mufti Sahab was an extremely humane and helpful politician in his personal behaviour who would keep with him friends and enemies alike. May his soul rest in peace.

______ Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

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