By Chowdhary Zulfkar Ali
Mahatma Gandhi Ji had seen ray of hope in Kashmir and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Sahib always used to say “Mujhey Pir Panjal Khita Main Roshni ki Kiran Nazar Aati Hai’’ [I see a ray of hope in Pir Panjal region]. This is enough to describe love of late Mufti Sahib for Pir Panjal area.
Although Mufti played a significant role not on international level by creating an atmosphere in which two enemies India and Pakistan become friends and neighbours, he also proved his mettle as first and only Muslim Home Minister of India. What he did for Jammu and Kashmir in three years term as Chief Minister is before the people.
Since I was deeply associated with the concerns of Pir Panjal region, it becomes my duty to acknowledge the contribution of Mufti Sahib towards this area.
I don’t know what was the rationale behind it but his reverence towards great Sufi saint Hazrat Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah might have attracted him towards this region. Although, he was also having a political mission of empowering the people of the area.
Mufti Sahib ever used to say that Rajouri-Poonch region is politically less empowered and “I want political empowerment” of the region. He wanted to make Rajouri-Poonch equal stake holder in the politics of state and he tried his best for the political empowerment of the area in the last 13 years.
Biggest contribution to this area was establishment of Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University. I could never forget it was his affection with Pir Panjal region that when people of the area were demanding opening of Primary School, he opened Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University which was only a dream for the people of Rajouri and Poonch areas.
It was his great love for the region that during 36 months of term as Chief Minister from 2002 to 2005, he visited 27 times to Rajouri to take the stock of the activities he had started to uplift the area. It was his dream to see a centre of higher learning flourished at Rajouri for which he ever used to term this institution as “Tower of Light”.
When he announced Chowdhary Masud Ahmed as first Vice Chancellor of this University, there was criticism from some quarters on his appointment. When I brought into the notice of Mufti sahib about the reaction of people, he replied, “my mission to establish Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University is not political. I want to establish a tower of light and I think Chowdhary Masud Ahmed is my best choice to realize this dream on ground.”
After establishment of this University, I realized, critics were wrong and Mufti Sahib was right. I was surprised to see his interest in this University when he used to frequently fly from Srinagar and Jammu and land his helicopter at Small Helipad in the University campus and regularly take stock of the developmental activities. He tried a lot to bring then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to Rajouri and get this University inaugurated by his hands, however, due to certain conditions, it did not materialize.
It was on December 15, 2004 when Mufti sahib laid foundation stone and after 8 months of record time, the class work in the University started on August 29, 2005. Again when Mufti Sahib took over as Chief Minister 2nd time in 2015, he chose a non-resident of Jammu & Kashmir as Vice Chancellor and appointed non-controversial and world class scholar Prof Mussarat Javed as Vice Chancellor and also visited University and announced establishment of 3 Nursing Colleges in Jammu, Rajouri and Kishtwar which will operate under the ambit of this University.
Although Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University is the biggest ever gift to the people of area, opening of Mughal Road was also not less than a portal of life for the people of this region who were brought close to Kashmir valley. This road was a dream but only Mufti Sahib got it realized. He used to say “Mughal road is not a road but a way of getting the hearts closer. A way for economic prosperity. A path of strengthening cultural bond.”
It was his vision for Pir Panjal region that he always used to say, “one day Pir Panjal region will be ‘Gateway of Economic activities for Central Asia’.”
Mufti Sahib not only brought people of Pir Panjal close to Kashmir, he also bridged the gap between people of Chenab valley and people of Kashmir by constructing Kishtwar-Sinthan-Islamabad Road. He also wanted to bring Poonch people close to Kashmir through Sultanpatri-Arizal road for which he visited the area on November 21, 2015 and laid foundation stone of Loran-Gulmarg 42 Kilometre road.
I also accompanied Mufti sahib to the area which was my last company with Mufti Sahib to any area. Mufti Sahib had seen a ray of hope in Rajouri-Poonch belt but only thing which disappointed him was Gujjar-Pahari divide which he termed as “main reason of the backwardness of the area”.
He always used to say that “people should carry ideology instead of carrying ethnic rivalries as such rivalries block development of an area”.
Pir Panjal got from Mufti sahib much more what they expected. Before 2002, the people of this area were being harassed and atrocities of forces were at high peak but Mufti Sahib gave relief to the people by diffusing the powers of task forces and other paramilitary forces because Mufti Sahib wanted peace with dignity and he gave a dignified life to the people of this state by creating an atmosphere in which a father has not to raise hands for frisking and walking on foot with hands up for many kilometres on roadside; a young man of this state has not to show his identity card to a person from outside the state.
Most of the people of Pir Panjal region are residing near LoC who lost everything during four wars between India and Pakistan. To give them relief there was only option that guns must be kept silent.
It was visionary approach of Mufti Sahib to raise voice for peace and friendship of India and Pakistan as he knows that relations between these two neighbours directly affect people of Jammu and Kashmir. He invited then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Kashmir where he extended hands of friendship to Pakistan which was great breakthrough in the process of peace and stability in the sub-continent.
Mufti Sahib was of the vision to make borders irrelevant and it is why he raised voice for opening of routes. His demands get fulfilled and Government of India opened Poonch-Rawalkote and Uri-Muzaffarabad routes which provide relief to the separated families after 67 years. Many fathers met their children. Many brothers met each other. They had left the hope now but Mufti Sahib’s approach provided them an opportunity to meet with each other.
He was very much satisfied on this decision and when he saw separated people meeting, he would get “inner satisfaction”. Now he had envisioned to open these roads for general public and not to limit the scope of these roads only for separated families but before accomplishing this idea, he left for heavenly soul.
I don’t know why but Mufti Sahib always expressed great love for the people of Kotranka area which is the reason that he seemed concerned for the development of the area. He used to say, “I desire to meet people to satisfy my inner feeling, I used to visit Kotranka because it gives me strange satisfaction.”
In last state assembly election, I approached him with a request that my father late Chowdhary Mohammad Hussain had dreamt for construction of Anas Canal and if people will give us mandate, this project may be started on priority, he responded positively and after taking over as Chief Minister, his first public address was at Kotranka where he laid foundation stone of this Rs 100 Crore project.
It was dream of my father which was realized by Mufti Sahib. Mufti Sahib wanted to provide youth of Kotranka an opportunity to get technical trainings so that they earn their livelihood and for the same he opened ITI College in the area. He was also keen to open Technical College at Kotranka and construction of Budhal-Shopian road, however, it could not be realized in his lifetime.
When I look back on the pages of history, I find Mufti Sahib as “most positive thinker” in politics. When we were in opposition, from 2008 to 2014, Mufti Sahib always pushed to project peoples’ issues.
According to him “opposition is the essence of democracy”. He used to teach us “to oppose, expose and depose.” His advice to the lawmakers was in three (3) Ds: “Discuss, Dissent and Decide.”
His positive approach was also evident with the fact when I approached him recently on some protests held against non-supply of food grains at some places, he questioned me, “Zulfkar how many ration sale centres you are having in state.” My answer was more than 6000. Mufti sahib told me that if people are protesting on three sale centres, it means that 5997 centres are working properly so always go by the positive side of the things.
Although he also advised to resolve the matter of these three (3) centres but he took these protests in positive angle. When we approached him with some difficulty, he always encouraged us and never made us feel that “we are not part of system”. He even showed his great magnanimity over mistakes.
He treated us like own family members and considered our injury as his own. I recall an incident in Assembly when PDP members were protesting against hanging of Afzal Guru, Mufti Sahib pointed towards me and asked to lodge the same protest. I responded it and lodged protest. There was scuffle with watch and ward officials during which I received several injuries. It was on that night that I received a message from Mufti Sahib: “I am sorry; it was bad to see you injured as I forced you to go into well.”
Mufti Sahib taught us “real meaning” of politics. For him politics is “art of managing the contradictions”. Out of power, he always performed duty of “real opposition”.
From the early days he is known for his “straight forwardness”. When Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Sahib was again given the throne in 1975 and Indira Gandhi put the reins of her Congress party in J&K in Mufti Sahib’s hands side stepping his senior Syed Mir Qasim, Mufti Sahib performed best role of opposition in the state by opposing Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah government openly even though he was given power with the consent of Indira Gandhi.
At that time, Mrs Gandhi told Mufti sahib: “why are you opposing Sheikh as he is our partner (Awo Unke Sangh Sangh Chaltey Hain)? Mufti Sahib’s reply to most towering personality of India was: “I am leader of opposition and my role is to oppose the policies which are anti-people so that people rely on democracy.”
He met Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, only once, the then Chief Minister of State which too about continuation of Congress office at Shahidi Chowk, Jammu and “never demanded anything for his own during the tenure”.
Mufti had envisioned “greater Jammu & Kashmir” but his dream remained unrealized. He wanted peaceful solution of Jammu and Kashmir problem: Self Rule in this state. He wanted to make people of J&K self-reliant by restoring their dignity. He wanted better Indo-Pak relations. He wanted more trade routes to be opened. He wanted Suchetgarh-Sialkote route, Mirpur-Jhangar route and Askardu-Kargil route to be opened. He wanted hassle free trade and hassle free movement of people along LoC. He wanted to establish Patnitop-Chenab valley an independent tourist destination. He had envisioned Skill Development Institute for Chenab valley and his prime concern was proper rehabilitation of people affected in September 2014 Kashmir floods but these dreams remained unfinished, yet.
My leader was so convincing that nobody ever questioned him or argued him when he stopped speaking. When new government was formed after election and I was inducted as Cabinet Minister, Mufti Sahib told me: “Health Minister is having control on few doctors, Education Minister controls few schools and teachers but I am giving you Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Department which deals with 1.25 crore people of Jammu and Kashmir because everybody in the state is consumer and you are Minister of all these people.”
It was Mufti Sahib’s strength behind me that I decided to implement 2011 Census in order to provide food grains to the people who were deprived of the same for last 15 years. It was also vision of Mufti Sahib to implement National Food Security Act in this state so that maximum needy people get ration on subsidised rates. It was also “great vision” that he respected the voices against this act and assured some amendments in the scheme to cover all. For the last time when Mufti Sahab addressed press, he talked about NFSA. The decision on the same was taken in the cabinet meeting which also became last cabinet meeting for Mufti Sahib.
I am orphan since September 30, 2002 when I lost my father Chowdhary Mohammad Hussain but love and fatherly treatment which I received from late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed never made me feel alone. It was on January 7, 2016 when I felt I have become politically orphan as I lost my father, political guru, mentor and companion who was guiding force behind me, who always teaches me how to talk, how to walk, how to handle situations, how to deal circumstances and how to remain in touch with the real force i.e. people.
I still remember that when I met Mufti Sahib for the first time in 2002 at Srinagar Airport he was on way to Jammu and on the next very morning he called me to meet at Channi Himmat residence but due to some circumstances I could not contest 2002 election on PDP ticket and opted to jump into the election arena as Independent candidate. It was his greatness that after taking over as Chief Minister in 2002, Mufti sahib again called me at his official residence at Jammu to discuss various issues pertaining to Pir Panjal region. Since Pir Panjal was also my priority sector, I humbly respected the call of then Chief Minister and had a thorough discussion on diversity of issues regarding Pir Panjal area.
It was the day when I realized that Mufti Sahib is having vibrant mission for Pir Panjal area. He discussed establishment of Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University at Rajouri, Mughal Road, face lifting of Shahdra Sharief area, Indo-Pak talks, softening of borders, curbing atrocities of forces on the public, socio-economic conditions of nomads and unemployment issues.
At the end of the discussion, Mufti Sahib offered me to become part of the mission and also suggested to meet Mehbooba Ji. My motive behind stepping into the politics was simply to help needy people and play role in boosting socio-economic condition of the people of Pir Panjal and when I got this opportunity to work with a “brain having vision”, I acted swiftly on the advice of Mufti Sahib and met Mehbooba Ji and finally decided to come under the umbrella of PDP and joined the party on January 5, 2003 following which I was assigned the job of District President of the party for Rajouri.
I found myself in right lap when I saw all the mission of Mufti Sahib fulfilled on ground in just few years.
I must say that a leader is born, a politician is also born but a statesman is born in a century and Mufti Sahib was one such statesman. A void has been created and it is difficult to fill.
The author is political activist of Peoples Democratic Party.