Author: Saadut
•9:54 PM

Many weeks after I had joined my new job, was called by Late Mufti Sb to meet him at residence for the first time. He had been back home after a hectic day schedule, such extracting schedules having been a norm with him, and was sitting alone in his favorite drawing room chair with a book in his hand. From a distance I could not make out the title of the book. Later I found out he was reading about renowned Kashmiri poet Ghani Kashmiri. As I entered the room, trying to make the least of noise, he looked up to me, paused and inquired “Saadut?” “Yes Sir”. Pointing to the sofa near him, directed me to sit "I have heard a lot about your work. Now let me also hear your ideas." Having said that he folded the book, put it near the telephone on his left side, paying attention to what I was about to say. Very few politicians, if ever, have I seen allowing audiences or people to have their space and speak, while listening patiently. Nervous me, gave him a brief of what I had done since I joined my new workplace and what further envisaged to do. He waited me to complete, without interrupting and then came back "now tell me how technological intervention can curb corruption in these areas & civic services, as a first priority". He then went ahead with naming the services he thought needed urgent automation and process management so that corruption there could be curbed and service delivery made better. Luckily for me, just a day earlier my boss had updated about one of the service sectors that the Chief Minister was particular about. All night I had scrambled notes from my work assignments of previous years, dug information from friends who were currently working on similar projects elsewhere, and then prepared a draft for what the Chief Minister was looking at. I handed out the draft to him, explaining what it contained as he put it by the book on that table, closing his eyes for some seconds. As I paused, he continued on describing the draft automation from where I had paused. I was left speechless, for Mufti Sb knew and understood more about that particular service automation, that I had prepared for in the draft.

Half way into the meeting, my boss joined us and the talk shifted to a new professional assignment that they were proposing to entrust me. “Was I ready for that job?” “I am ready Sir” “but sometimes feel threatened by those who are feeling unsettled by our intention of creating accountability and fair work practices”. Late Mufti Sahab again paused, looked straight at me and said in chaste Kashmiri “zyon, marun, rizk te yezzath chu badast-e Allah”, then mentioning (Surah Al-Imran, 160) “If Allah helps you, none can overcome you: If He forsakes you, who is there, after that, that can help you? In Allah, then, Let believers put their trust.”
 “If you feel you are on a right path, doing your duty, then even God will be on your side”. I got the message and nodded in agreement. Mufti Sb had been a student of Arabic & Law, alumnus of Aligarh, apart from being a politician of deep insight. And even from the limited maneuverability that mainstream politicians in Kashmir have had for decades, his political ideas were often unconventional and out of box, be it pushing for cross LoC trade and easing travel for divided families across the Kashmir divide or seeking engagement between India and Pakistan for peace and resolution in Kashmir. 

I have been a student of politics, especially of Kashmir, for decades now, but have seen no parallel of Mufti Syeed among politicians who stood their belief and carried on with their political convictions, whatever these beliefs were. He believed in a democratic and secular India with no shifting to allegiances mid way, ever. Have seen many other politicians ‘shift’ from one stance to another, from being part of status quo then moving to anti status quo; some fluctuating between New Delhi & Islamabad in decades while others changing stance every six years. Yet some politicians would demand bombing Pakistan one day, talking peace the very next day. But Mufti Sayeed was none of them, his political consistency carried like a belief all along. He was an Indian by conviction, not by convenience unlike many others. The India my generation and the following generation in Kashmir has been debating on, or raising questions against, lies beyond the real idea of India, that was envisaged and enshrined after 1947, an India that came together from hundreds of small kingdoms and many ethnicities and beliefs. It is that envisaged idea of inclusive India that Mufti Syeed believed in.

You could, and we did, differ with him politically, but he would respect your views and allow your differing opinions to have their space. He was aware of my opinion against how India has been treating Kashmir, about how people had been denied their rights here since decades, but I was never confronted or shunned by him for having a different view, my own view. When a friend of mine, a prominent pro separatist voice, became critical of my appreciation for Mufti Sb’s political acumen, I had this to say “Politics is not a religion that you cannot have a different belief. Political maturity says we respect the other view especially when the other view respects our ideas, in spite of all his political limitations”

In my last one to one meeting with Mufti Sb, he asked me about renowned Kashmiri poet Ghani Kashmiri (Muhammad Tahir Ghani, late 16th century). “Why are most Kashmiris unaware of that great poet?”
“Sir that comes from a lack of connect to our literary past, lack of recognition of our sons of soil and also to the cessation of our once strong connect with Persian, which was an important language in Kashmir (especially during the Afghan & Mughal rule).” “Are we not poorer due to a disconnect with our heritage, history, sons of soil and literary past?” “Absolutely, as Goethe once wrote ‘He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth’. Meaning, a nation (person) disconnected from its (his) heritage is a poor nation (person).” He nodded and smiled, asking me to visit Late Ghani Kashmiris mausoleum the very next day. Next day I visited the mausoleum, met people there and by evening had compiled my draft. Many days later Mufti Sb kept his date with the mausoleum, as a part of his extensive city tour, issuing on spot directives for developmental works in many areas. That extensive and extracting tour of Srinagar was going to be his last. The worker died with his boots on.    

Allah Magfirat Kare.

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