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Kashmir loses its man of the hour

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By Sidharth Mishra

On the eastern periphery of the national Capital right on Delhi-Noida border is a colony developed by the DDA in the early 1990s. Christened as Eastend Apartments, the colony soon became the abode of the retiring politicians and bureaucrats. One among them was an affable gentleman from Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. 
He passed away as chief minister of the Himalayan state on January 6, 2016, breathing his last at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
From his retirement abode in the national Capital to the Chief Minister’s office in Srinagar, Mufti left behind a trail of unique politics, standing for the people of Jammu and Kashmir against adversaries as far apart as the Pakistan-backed militants on the one hand and men of state and central government agencies on the other. 
The Caravan magazine, sensing that Mufti’s end was near, carried a cover this week describing him as a “collaborator” and the Centre’s new man in Kashmir.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Mufti was a nationalist who believed in Kashmiriyat. Mufti addressed the India Ideas conclave in Goa earlier this winter. Organised by BJP general secretary Ram Madhav’s India Foundation, the get-together did not escape the tag of being a RSS meet with Mufti conversing with the redoubtable former commander of 15 Corp in Srinagar Lt Gen Ata Hasnain its high tide point.
Mufti condemned terrorism in no uncertain terms and claimed that Kashmiriyat was his life’s mission which included rehabilitation of the Pandits in the Valley.
To the Indian intelligentsia outside the Valley, Mufti was a much misunderstood politician. Vishwanath Pratap Singh made him the nation’s first Muslim Home Minister in 1989 but that tenure would remain besmirched for release of his kidnapped daughter Rubbaiyya in exchange for militants, which altered political discourse in the state. 
However, author of ‘Crescent over Kashmir: Politics of Mullahism’, Anil Maheswari has a different take on course of events. According to the veteran political writer, “When Mufti’s daughter, travelling in a public bus, was kidnapped, he expressed the view that the victim should not be swapped with terrorists (called militants  even then by the BJP leaders including Advani). But his colleague Arif Mohammad Khan, another highly ambitious Muslim leader opposed the idea. Arif was canny enough to realise that if  Mufti sacrificed his daughter for national security, he would emerge as a national leader, acceptable even to the majority community. Arif Mohammad Khan accompanied by senior ministerial colleague IK Gujral flew to Srinagar that night and pressurised the Farooq Abdullah government to release the terror mongers. The release of five terrorists altered the political course in the state.” Abdullah recently at the release of AS Dulat’s book confirmed releasing terrorists under pressure from Arif and Gujral.
Mufti was a nationalist and a rare breed of Congressman who had the spine to stand-up to the party’s first family. Before Rajiv Gandhi signed the flawed accord with Farooq Abdullah, he tried to pre-empt Mufti’s opposition by making him Tourism Minister in his Cabinet. A democrat at heart, Mufti could not condone the rigged state polls of 1987 and decided to join Vishwanath Pratap Singh’s Jan Morcha, becoming the Home Minister in 1989 Janata Dal government.
At Goa conclave mentioned above, Mufti justifying his current coalition with the BJP said that he could not grudge the party, whose prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002 ensured fair polls to Jammu and Kashmir state assembly after a longtime. Leading People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mufti became chief minister at the head of a coalition with the Congress. Mufti’s first term as chief minister saw state’s governance in the Valley, which his predecessor Farooq Abdullah had gladly abdicated.
He showed in those three years how effective governance by the state government could go a long way marginalizing anti-India and terrorists in the valley. This he managed by bringing the much-dreaded Special Operations Group (SOG) under the local police administration and ensuring exit of the Border Security Force from Srinagar. The rise of PDP and such administrative measures helped greatly to bring people of the Valley back into the democratic mainstream.
Even towards the end of his life, Mufti did not let the democrat in him rest in the labyrinth. His decision to head a coalition which included the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for his second term as chief minister could once again alter the course of the state, this time for better. “The election results showed a regional divide. We had to do something to end this divide,” Mufti told Goa Conclave.
Very visionary of Mufti to foresee that for the Valley to remain with India, it was must to end its chasm with the Jammu region. Mufti was a statesman, who leaves behind a huge political legacy to inherit for daughter Mehbooba, a leader in her own right. Mufti was not New Delhi’s collaborator but the man of hour in Srinagar.
(The author is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post)

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