Mufti Sayeed made a brief, unscheduled public speech during his fateful city tour on December 22. Two days ahead of it, he presided over a marathon meeting of his party in Srinagar’s Banquet Hall. His intervention and a long speech to his party executives, ministers and lawmakers offer rare detail of his politics, legacy and the vision. Saima Bhat recreates the speech after collecting it in bits and pieces from various sources in the government and the party
I am happy that I do not know why I stop people in the middle of their conversations. But I have my sincerity in it. I talk straight. I know some of you might be feeling bad about it and they should feel bad. But I am like this only since I formed this party in a struggle.
When we decided to form a regional party in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, it was very difficult for me. Till then I had worked on a bigger canvas. I worked with Congress, and I was home minister of India but sensing the much need in this state, I felt like we should raise the voice of people, a sincere voice that should not deceive them. We have published that in our vision document that what we want.
One positive thing happened in 2002, BJP was at the centre and that time Mehbooba and Beg Sahib told me we should not contest elections as our dignity will be at stake. But I contacted the Prime Minister of India. I remember I didn’t have his contact but I got it through a friend and I went to meet him. I told him that I am being told that I won’t be allowed to form a party like it was happening in Mughal Rule as the decisions were taken from the centre.
But it was a pride moment when he declared from Red Fort that ‘elections will be clean in Kashmir’. It happened. In Ganderbal, our young friend Omar Abdullah was defeated by Qazi Afzal. On my swearing-in ceremony, Sonia Gandhi was there and I called in Afzal on stage and told Sonia ji that this is the person who won from Ganderbal. And she went down to meet him. That was a different time or a coincidence that then Prime Minister (Atal Behari Vajpayee) was a great politician and statesman.
Later, Vajpayee planned his Kashmir visit. I was consulted whether it should be a party meeting or a rally. But I told them we will go for a public rally. I created an atmosphere where many people came to listen to him that was the time we witnessed a paradigm shift in our policy, a friendship started between Pakistan and India, people started feeling actually good when some prisoners were released. I remember (Dr) Manmohan (Singh) was in Gujarat that time and I called him to know how did it happen. That time, such things people still remember. I have been a part of Congress as well, I don’t want to indulge in this I just want to tell you all people what is my legacy and who I am?
You all people are mine, I say Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is alive in politics that is only and only because of his workers. Whatever I say, I say the truth. The decision that was taken by the people of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 was a historical decision which showed a new direction but unfortunately, the situation turned bad.
I want to say, even if you get angry with me but still, I will say that Indira Gandhi’s big contribution was to see Sheikh Abdullah Sahib should return to power. And I don’t have any problem in saying that he (Sheikh) had felt that time that Pakistan had become weaker after Bangladesh was born. He had accepted the decision he had taken in 1947 and he took it after seeing the condition of Pakistan. He was the person who contributed his time in good governance. The single line administration which we see today was introduced by him actually. He was serious for governance. But after his death, we lost what we had got.
At the same time, we all should accept the fact that India is a big nation where the tree of democracy is growing, where democracy is unto villages, at the grassroots level. (Mahatama) Gandhi has said, India lives in villages and self-government should be everywhere. I believe self-government is in those villages, he has done devolution of power by forming Panchayats and the Municipality. Mumbai Municipal Corporation earns Rs one lakh crores a year but only we remained away. If parties won (elections) in the past, that was not because of people. I think there was a trust deficit for we people in Jammu and Kashmir for the decisions of 1947 and 1975.
When PM Narendra Modi was coming here and asked me what should be done, I said we will go for a public rally. I was happy. I don’t inform police about the events. The stage was prepared for 5000 to 7000 people, but I believed my worker should also come in as he may hardly get a chance to see the prime minister of India. Modi tried to gauge the mood of people throughout the visit. It was not because of me that change happened, it was because of all you people.
Whatever I say, I say the truth. I search for credibility and I am known for my credibility. It is not a small step in sub-continent but a gigantic one that we have to move on. Prime Minister of India said it was a historical decision. I believe this partnership should be strategic because it is not for a matter of a few days but it should be strategic towards Pakistan as well. Only then both countries can fight terrorism together.
I am saying this not because I want to hold this chair. I stopped Nayeem Sahab (from talking) I committed a wrong but I want to know when did last municipality elections were held, or panchayat election, when did empowerment happened? Never. That is why I am saying that I am not fighting with you all or it is not our individual fight, you have to build institutions in which my workers will be given a chance to meet me, to become a sarpanch, a corporate official or a mayor, president of the district panchayat. Empowerment will act as a buffer, we don’t have any option except building institutions. If you really want to go for a paradigm shift, our party is in majority, we can do it. We are not like those who promise and then forget, instead we are known for our commitments, like the package we got.
I was happy without package as well. We now have to spend it in a resourceful manner. Like building infrastructure and development, transparency in the system, the information should be given, you should talk to people and that is good governance.
You speak the truth. If you face problems, you lose hope. But that should not happen, you should have conviction. I have requested president madam that I want to go to all districts where I want to meet my workers. It is very important to tell them for what they stand for – what is our stand for J&K, for Pakistan, for institutions. Conviction should be there if you have to work with me.
We had G M Sadiq in our party. When people used to meet him he had a clear mind because where he was standing, he was there by his conviction. I believe the people in this party are not there because of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed but they know what PDP stands for. In the state of Jammu and Kashmir, many young and old people were killed but if you want to bring peace, we have only one way, through the ballot. ‘Na goley sey na bandook sey, baat banney gi boli say’. That is the way of the democratic process. I respect Sajad Lone sahib, who individually went to meet Prime Minister Modi. When I meet people they ask for space. I believe they should be involved in talks, I think this is democracy.
I once shared with a member that if I am asked what position I have been given under the Constitution of India, I will say this is my legacy. If I can save it, the position we enjoy in the constitution of India – the residuary powers, our state flag, the state subject, our own constitution and that is our agenda. If this is what it is then what wrong did I commit? I just joined hands with a party which was selected by the majority of people (in India). Why don’t they understand? It is the hand which is trusted by people. If we had joined the people who were not in power then how could that had helped us?
If they (BJP) have desires for the people (PDP) it is not because of me but it happens when they meet people themselves and check the ground situation – seeing is believing. They also saw Kashmiri people are not man-eaters, and people (in PDP) are not middlemen but honest people. If given a transparent system, they will build the state. But there are problems like unemployment. I repeatedly tell Nayeem sahib when my youth give their best time of 15 to 16 years in studies, then they why should they have to move from pillar to post for jobs. We have to change the system, we should introduce those subjects in our colleges that have better placement opportunities.
I was happy to see ITI students in Jammu who get better placed in different fields of paramedics, automobile industries. I don’t know how but I want Nayeem sahib to change this system, if he wants to change from school level, he should go for it.
Such issues can’t be solved in a room. I repeatedly tell president madam that these issues cannot be solved between her and me. I want a political affairs committee, a higher forum to be formed, where many people will be its part, who will be consulted before taking a decision. So involve different people from different strata of life. I know many will get angry if they are not taken up, but you have the authority, you can take a decision. I will also come in that forum. Otherwise, people think I don’t allow anybody to speak as I want work to be done on a fast track basis. I should not do that because things should be done/ provided at the proper time.
At the times of negotiations with the BJP, I don’t know who was where. I will say same that nobody is going to stay here for ever. So I will change my habits, I will be meeting my ministers now, but I request you that you should give respect to your workers. I don’t have anything to give them but respect is the only thing we can give them.
Once one of a senior worker came to me and asked if I can help him in getting jobs for his two children. I accepted that slip and thought of providing them a job in corporate. But this was a short term helplessness which is not a permanent affair. It takes 16 to 17 years for the growth of a youth. Same happens when we have to grow our worker. If he remains upset then we cannot do anything, our train will stop. I want to institutionalise the system. I have been meeting the district presidents. Mehbooba used to go in field but now I will tell we are not in field this time. We don’t have any fieldwork in Anantnag, Pulwama. Our organisation should have been strong in field but it is not there.
Our senior members Sartaj Madni sahib, Sofi sahib, Mehboob Beg sahib should be involved in their district because block presidents are their men. Your programme would not be successful till you involve your workers and senior members. Even if you lost election, doesn’t matter, I have also lost many elections. Public opinion is a permanent feature. We should be on our toes. Senior people should come again and you should not lose hope, you have to work for the next elections. Jammu and Kashmir has such a strategic position, that it is an issue throughout the world. India doesn’t have any other issue other than Kashmir issue. It is your responsibility to sustain.
Second things is the youth whose mind is with the ISIS. They do not have anything to do with the institutions. As Americans find it, they (ISIS) don’t connect their computers to social media. They do it independently and you would not get a source to track them. You have to fight with extremists; it is a war of ideology, which is important. Earlier we used to say we will talk, nobody is going to stop us from having a dialogue. We should do that but it is an evolutionary process. Last time I went to Suchetgarh, I told them we will open spots and Sailkoat will be just half an hour travel from Jammu. That is for the future and today we should also work there.
I will share an incident. When Mehboob Iqbal came to me with the names of three DSPs and started reading the fourth name I stopped him. I believe if you are meeting Chief Minister, you should not come for transfers but for issues from places like Baderwah. We can do anything, we have resources but you should focus on people. We are lucky that time is favourable for us, we are getting AIIMS, a lot of nursing colleges and we only have to just manage.
We can do the membership drives later, first distribute flood relief, among those who lost their houses and traders. You have enough money from the World Bank, Rs 1500 crore, that should be utilised for the infrastructure. Delhi people are very responsive to our demands. It is still an evolutionary process, the more you get people involved, the more successful you will become.
People get angry about not having electricity. I think hooks are mostly used in metered areas. Some of the officials are also hand in glove with them. I had asked you earlier as well but I don’t know what happened.
On National Food Security Act, why don’t you tell people that National Conference couldn’t implement it because they couldn’t have the latest census. They didn’t had resources, and now we are giving them more food on the basis of 2011 census and only a few are left who doesn’t get it. Then there is another issue that one family is in possession of more than one ration card. We are inviting people from NC, and Hurriyat that if they have suggestions they can come, and we will consider their suggestions. After distributing relief, I want to meet district presidents across state. I thank you all.