There has been much debate in the Kashmiri and Indian media about the political legacy of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (1936-2016). Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was never a popular leader in Kashmir except in small pockets which supported the Congress. It is quite likely that Mufti will go down in history as a pro-India Kashmiri politician who cleared space for Hindu nationalist politics in Kashmir by securing an alliance with the BJP.
One of the early failures of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s chequered political career was his role in the creation of Democratic National Conference which gathered almost the whole spectrum of the Left in Kashmir under a deluded pro-India Stalinism (and the ruse of fighting NC authoritarianism!). The Democratic National Conference was a political disaster and it abandoned true Kashmiri socialists to a life of anonymity. This sealed the fate of the Left in Kashmir.
But what is in retrospect the most unforgivable mistake of Mufti’s political career in Kashmiri eyes is his complicity as the Home Minister of India for some of the worst atrocities committed by the Indian State in 1990. Governor Jagmohan is a reviled figure in Kashmir for his brutal suppression of pro-freedom protests in Kashmir in 1990 through massacres which claimed scores of lives and long curfews which lasted weeks. It is difficult for Kashmiris to forget that it was Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who appointed Jagmohan as the Governor of Kashmir even against opposition in his own National Front government. It was the first concession he made to the BJP on Kashmir and it wasn’t going to be the last. Some in Kashmir may deem it a bit far-fetched to blame an Indian Home Minister for crimes such as the Gowkadal massacre (committed by a paramilitary force directly under the control of his Ministry) but then the same people must also stop blaming Narendra Modi for any complicity in the Gujarat riots.
Mufti was to the Kashmiri Muslim community what Giani Zail Singh was to the Punjabi Sikhs. The Sikhs of Punjab summoned Giani Zail Singh, the ex-President of India, to the Akal Takht (the seat of Sikh religious authority) to demand an apology for his silence on the assault on Golden Temple in 1984. But Mufti never apologized to the Kashmiri nation for his complicity in the atrocities of 1990.
The height of Sheikh Abdullah (however patriotic he might have been at some point!) had much to do with Indian State power. Mufti is no Sheikh. And Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah don’t even measure up against Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Farooq Abdullah.
Every generation of collaborators (despite the military situation!) is weaker than the previous and every generation of freedom lovers is stronger. Mehbooba and Omar are perhaps the last generation of collaborators to wield even the minimal political clout they do with so much State power at their disposal. They must be more aware than anyone else that they have no real claims as Kashmiris on Indian State power. One day this structure of collaboration will simply be overwhelmed. It always seems impossible until it happens.
In an article published in the Hindustan Times, Amitabh Mattoo (an advisor in the PDP government), compared Mufti to a popular 17th century Kashmiri ascetic, Rishi Pir. This is what he had to say: “One of Kashmir’s most revered 17th century saints was Resh Peer and referred popularly as Peer (Sufi), Pandit (guru), Padshah (king of both worlds). Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was a contemporary secular exponent of the same tradition.” It seems, during the Afghan rule over Kashmir, Rishi Pir was invited to a meal by a Sufi who was also the teacher of a great Mughal prince. The Sufi called Rishi Pir a King of Kings on his arrival…but this is how Rishi Pir responded: “Samaan-e benawaai samaan shud ast ma (The means of poverty have become our means).” Mufti did just the opposite in his lethal embrace of the BJP. By joining hands with the Indian political party most opposed to the idea of a Kashmiri solution to Kashmir, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed succeeded as an Indian nationalist but failed as a Kashmiri. As far as ordinary Kashmiris are concerned, I remember the following lines of Rahman Rahi:
Yaem khanjar kor mye paivast jigras
Mye tass doikhaer karnavan kotamath
(The one who lodged a knife in my chest How long will I be forced to pray for that oppressor’s health?)