Jammu, Mar 2: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who took charge of Jammu and Kashmir for a second time on Sunday, developed a passion for politics in his teens when he met then Kashmir Prime Minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad in the mid-1950s to seek financial help for higher studies.
Sayeed’s father, Mufti Gulam Mohammad, was a religious preacher in the south Kashmir village of Bijbehara and didn’t own any farm land. His only income was the donations from disciples and whatever he got by imparting religious education to children.
The first in the family to go for formal education, Sayeed realised he needed help for higher studies. So, he called on the iconic Bakshi at his office in Srinagar.
“Something happened that day,” a close friend said. “Mufti [Sayeed] sahib (sir) has never been able to fully explain.”
A large number of people had also gathered to see Bakshi. Sayeed wondered — the friend recalled — if one day he too will meet people a la Bakshi.
Sayeed did his post-graduation from the Aligarh Muslim University in Arabic and also obtained a law degree from there.
When he returned to Kashmir, he realised his dream — politics.
Born on January 12, 1936, into a poor family in Bijbehara village in Anantnag district, Sayeed still respects the late Bakshi for developing the state.
Over time, Sayeed too developed the habit of listening to all, but taking his own decision.
Another friend said. “He has been in the high and low of politics, but he won’t allow adversity or prosperity to go to his head.”
Sayeed set up the Congress party in the Kashmir Valley at a time when being a member of a pro-India party and taking on the National Conference of Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah was seen as a virtual sin.
“But he stood up to Shaikh Abdullah,” said Abdul Rehman, 80, who lives in Anantnag town.
Sayeed became a junior minister in the GM Sadiq-led Congress government in 1967.
In 1989, Sayeed became India’s first — and till date the only — Muslim home minister when VP Singh was the prime minister.
This was when separatism was taking roots in Kashmir. To make a point, militants dramatically abducted Sayeed’s younger daughter, Rubaiya, in Srinagar.
She was released in exchange for seven Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front activists.
In 1999, Sayeed, assisted by his firebrand elder daughter Mehbooba Mufti, formed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
It won 16 seats in the 2002 assembly election, and Sayeed became the chief minister after allying with the Congress and held the post for three years.
In 2008, the PDP won 21 seats, but remained in the opposition because the Congress teamed up with the National Conference.
After winning all three Lok Sabha seats in the Kashmir Valley in 2014, it was widely felt that the PDP would sweep close to 40 seats in the assembly elections of November-December last year.
The PDP did come on top of a hung assembly, but won only 28 seats, a result that did not please Sayeed.
The result threw up the most serious challenge in Sayeed’s political career: should he ally or not with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), seen in the valley as a pro-Hindu group. The BJP had 25 legislators.
It took Sayeed more than two months to decide that he will. Critics will blame him for bringing the BJP to power in India’s only Muslim-majority state.
Sayeed, his aides say, is determined to weed out corruption from Jammu and Kashmir and give it a transparent government.
He said: “I don’t believe in having hiccups while addressing the serious business of governance in a difficult state like ours.
“Everything has been properly and logically addressed. It was not a question [of] whether I [would] be chief minister for six years. The real question was [how] to ensure peace, progress and dignity.”
Sayeed has two brothers and a sister. The elder brother was also a religious preacher. The younger brother served the forest department and retired as a forester. His sister was a housewife.
Besides Mehbooba and Rubaiya, Sayeed has another daughter, Mehmooda. His son, Mufti Tasaduq, is a cinematographer in Hollywood. His brother-in-law, Sartaj Madni, was the deputy speaker of the last state assembly.