Mufti Mohd Sayeed—The man I knew
M. M. Khajooria
A few days after I assumed the charge of the then Anatnag district comprising the entire South of Kashmir as District Superintendent of Police in the fag-end of 1963 the theft of Moi-i-Muqadis’ shook the entire Kashmir like never before. On the second or the third day of the unfortunate occurrence I received a telephone call from MLC Syed Hussain saying, “I am stuck up in a particular place along with a colleague ” He wondered whether I could “rescue them'”. His tone was not optimistic as Shamash Din was the Prime Minister of the State and Syed Hussain belonged to the opposition Democratic National Conference(DNC) . I had them picked up and brought to the Control Centre. Over a cup of tea I was introduced to my second guest-Mufti Mohd Sayeed.
Those were momentous times. On the intervention of Jawahar Lal Nehru, the DNC was dissolved G.M. Sadiq group rejoined the National Conference and Sadiq was installed as the Prime Minister of Jammu & Kashmir As the new dispensation faced one grave crisis after the other it became imperative for the political leadership and the administration to work in close cooperation . I had the added advantage of enjoying complete confidence of the new leadership – G.M Sadiq, DP Dhar, Mir Qasim and Pt Trilochan Dutt with whom I was socially and politically connected from my college-days as the student- youth leader. At the local level the foursome-Mufti Mohd Syeed, Peer Hissam ud din, Mohd Ashraf Khan and Manohar Lal Koul formed the core of the party in power. Consequently, good rapport developed between us. While my relations with all of them were good, a closer affinity developed between Mufti Sahib and myself which endured decades after my posting in Ananatnag because of what he called “our common penchant for intellectual acrobats.” We were together, just the two of us on numerous evenings discussing everything under the Sun- Politics state, national and international particularly in the context of cold war and Soviet and Anglo-American block interest in Kashmir , personalities, history, contemporary development, future projections , indigenous secular ethos many times ending up in Urdu poetry.
During these interactions Mufti Sahib came out as an un conventional politician, a somewhat strange combination of a cool calculating political strategist and a dreamer. His political agenda was futuristic and yet rooted in realities of here and now. For him ,Secularism and democracy were articles of faith. He could praise and criticise personalities and parties as a matter of tactics and may appear to be making compromises here an there but never deviated from fundamentals of his political conviction and agenda.. He prioritised Interests of Kashmir, Jammu & Kashmir and India strictly in that order. As I write two incidents stand out in my memory. One. This related to his grave and abiding concern for the grass root level workers . This evidenced during the days of ‘Tarak-i-Moulat'( Social boycott call against pro-India Kashmiri Muslims) given by Sheikh Mohd Abdullah. I had barely spent three days out of ten days leave managed with great effort when I received a call from Home Minister DP Dhar to immediately return to Anantnag to handle the situation arising t of the ‘Tarak-i- Moulat’ call. To my utter surprise I found Mufti, Sahib,and Peer Hissam-ud-din waiting at my official residence when I reached there at mid night. They were greatly upset as the dead body of the mother of a Congress worker could not be buried .The GORE-Kun( the grave digger) was too frightened to defy the call and declined to perform his mandated functions. They left only after extracting a personal assurance from me that the needful would happen next day. And it did happen. The second related to his election from RS Pora constituency in a by-election after electoral upsets in his home constituency of Bij Behara. This was for the first time and may be the last time that a Kashmiri Muslim was elected to the State Legislative Assembly from a Jammu Hindu dominated constituency. He adopted the constituency and maintained his contacts with workers till the very last. Incidentally, Dr Farooq Abdullah publically accused me ( I was then the chief of Jammu & Kashmir Police) of ‘manipulating Muftis’ electoral victory”. In fact, it soured my relation with Dr. Abdullah for quite some time.
My contact with Muft almost dried up after he went to Delhi. But this did not in any way effect our mutual regard and affection . The distancing was perhaps mainly due to my reluctance to nurse relations with men in power. I always left it to the politician to take the initiative, which was considered unrealistic. But there was another reason too.
We met in Raj Bhavan after he took over as chief Minister at the head of Congress- PP coalition. He complained that I had omitted even to congratulate on his assumption of office. What kind of friend was I.? he demanded. He was scandalised when I told him that I had sought appointments on more than one occasion expressly stating that I had no business other than offering my good wishes . He called his then Principal Secretary who was also present and ticked him off. We met next day. Interestingly, I have always been blacklisted by hangers on and personnel staff of Chief ministers, all whom with the exception of Omar Abdullah were personally known to me from my days in politics . They billed as a ‘trouble maker’ in the habit of presenting “the other side’ which made the bosses to ask uncomfortable questions and demand straightforward answers.
My last brief but very pleasant contact with Mufti Sahib was last year at a wedding feast of Dr Walid Tariq son of the Srinagar MP, who is family. He held my hand while we exchanged pleasentries. I can still recall the old smile on his face as we conversed. His demise is a personal loss. The state and national politics has become bereft of an eminent and innovative player who though sometime controversial reached out to friends and foes alike.