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Mufti Sayeed: A Voice of Peace With a Vision for Reconciliation

After the demise of its founder, the challenge for the PDP is how to navigate the turbulent waters in the Valley.

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India
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If there’s consensus in the People’s Democratic Party on one issue, it’s that the death of the party founder, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, created a chasm which no other leader, not even his daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, has been able to fill.

Today, the party, reeling under the aftershocks of last year’s civilian uprising, misses its founder perhaps even more than before.

Sayeed’s sudden demise at AIIMS in January last year pushed Jammu and Kashmir into constitutional crisis, bringing the state under Governor's Rule for nearly three months. As Mehbooba, after much reluctance, stepped into her father’s shoes, controversy after controversy, coupled with an unrelenting partner, the BJP, made her position difficult.

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“Maybe He Could Have Handled the Situation Differently”

From Handwara killings – the agitation over Sainik Colony – the crisis at NIT and the civilian uprising that swept the Valley following the killing of the charismatic Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, the new chief minister was left with little time to focus on implementing the PDP-BJP’s ‘Agenda of the Alliance’.

“She (Mehbooba) continuously registers his absence in meetings and public interactions. Mufti saheb’s demise is a huge loss for us which we felt badly during last year’s agitation. Maybe he could have handled the situation differently, given his accommodative and inclusive approach towards the Opposition, New Delhi and Islamabad,” Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra, the president of PDP’s youth wing, told The Quint.



After the demise of its founder, the challenge for the PDP is how to navigate the turbulent waters in the Valley.
File image of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed with his daughter Mehbooba Mufti. (Photo: Reuters)
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As the party’s leadership embarks on commemorating the first death anniversary of its late founder, there is very little to show on the political or developmental front. Five months of protests and curfew crippled the economic activity in the State and the BJP-led Centre’s reluctance to engage Islamabad on Kashmir has made the party’s position untenable.

“Mufti stands out from other political leaders in the Valley in a way that he didn't hobnob with the idea of separatism, like other regional players. His vision was clear. He believed that the issue of Kashmir can’t be resolved without involving Pakistan and he openly spoke about it, which even annoyed his partner (BJP),” Noor Mohammad Baba, who heads the Political Science department at the Central University of Kashmir, said.

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“He Mistakenly Saw Vajpayee in Modi”

Out on the streets of Kashmir, however, Sayeed remains a deeply polarising figure. The trauma caused by the dance of death and destruction played out on the streets from July till November last year hasn’t healed yet. Many people blame the PDP for the crisis, for it “opened the doors of Kashmir” to the BJP, which has kept the State simmering since the two parties shook hands to form the coalition government.

“Despite popular opposition, Mufti brought the BJP to Kashmir. He mistakenly saw Vajpayee in (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi. His party spoke of self-rule for undivided Kashmir, but he handed over the state to Hindutva forces. Now his daughter has to live with his decision and she is suffering because of it as well,” Abdul Majeed, a retired executive engineer from south Kashmir's Pulwama district, said.

Others, however, see Sayeed’s decision as a reflection of his politics of accommodation and reconciliation.

He (Mufti) was a hardcore optimist who believed that the mandate given by the people of India to the BJP offered an opportunity of resolving the Kashmir problem. The happenings in the country are casting a shadow on his decision but it is too early to write him off
Ghulam Hassan Mir, a banker in Anantnag, the home district of Sayeed
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Navigating the Turbulent Waters of the Valley



After the demise of its founder, the challenge for the PDP is how to navigate the turbulent waters in the Valley.
(Photo: Reuters)

In the furiously-contested political spaces of Kashmir Valley, Sayeed will remain an important figure. While many people will remember him as an architect of Indo-Pak peace, a statesman and a great visionary, he will nevertheless continue to remain a deeply polarising figure as well as a peacenik in the state’s turmoiled history.

Friday’s massive snowfall in Kashmir may dampen the People’s Democratic Party's plans to commemorate the death anniversary of Late Sayeed, but it should not prevent a rethink on the grave risk taken by its founder in allying with the BJP. The challenge for the party will be how to navigate the turbulent waters in the Valley and anchor the coalition's boat safely to the shores. That will define his legacy in the years to come.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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