Remembering Mufti Sahab
A friend & a mentor who would always keep me under his wings & watch
Post by JUSTICE BASHIR AHMED KHAN on Sunday, January 8, 2023
Mufti Syed was the first & the last Muslim Home Minster of India & that too from Kashmir. How he maneuvered his way to reach the second top key position in Indian state without any mass base that time around was a political puzzle of sorts showcasing his political craft & skills. That he should have carved it out of a motley group called Janta Morcha & followed it up by stitching alliances across the Board provided insight into his political maneuverability & organizational skills. May be he was rewarded with “Home portfolio” for his dexterity to get diverse elements together & bringing them to one platform of Janta Dal. He was the main architect of this. It was puzzling because even front ranking Freedom movement anti partition Leader Maulana Azad could not make it in his time.
Mufti Sb was no run of the mill politician or any job seeker as one finds in the political arena today. He was a self respecting & dignified politician who would not compromise on his dignity or his ideals even before the high & the mighty. He didn’t receive Rajiv Gandhi at Srinagar Airport even being a Man Friday of then PM Indhra Gandhi as he did not consider him matching his political stature. He didn’t go begging around political bosses of his time currying for favors nor did he indulge in any feet touching or head longs to secure any position. Going up the ladder via snobbery & flattery was not in his DNA.
Mufti Sb was a master political strategist who practiced politics by his conviction. A democrat to the core, he was instrumental in introducing political competition in J&K breaking many myths & monopoly on the way. When tainted politicians were ruling the roost around him, he remained & emerged unblemished at the end of the day. Mufti Sb was not any self seeking power hungry or property grabbing politician. He would shun power when it compromised his dignity & ideals. He resigned as central Minster when he experienced unease & discomfort. He was one of those rare species of politicians who didn’t indulge in any unfair practices for his self gain. When he would be thrown out of any Govt accommodation or would give it up on loosing a high position he would have no place to live. Even when he was the Housing Minster & had established housing Colonies in Srinagar City, he never thought of Allotting a plot to himself which he believed would involve conflict of interest.
I recall when he was forcibly evicted from Tulsi Bagh Govt house as PCC president; he was accommodated at our Law Clerks two room under construction structure on a marshy land near Nowgam, because no one was willing to rent out his space to him in Srinagar city. He lived there as happily as he was in a palace, the dampness of the place notwithstanding. When he gave up sprawling 10-Akbar Road residence at Lutyens' Delhi after ceasing to be the Home Minster, a friend accommodated him in a dingy 2-room flat in Mayur Vihar-where his room could barely accommodate one bed. He would live through those hard conditions & religiously come to Delhi Golf Course like a devoted employee to do his politics for the day & return with his meal in a polythene bag in the evening. He would face difficult times with grace & always say- “one must always remain prepared for the Worst.”
Mufti Sb had God given capacity to adjust to any conditions-good or bad. He would enjoy the luxury & adversity in the same measure. Adversity or setbacks in life or politics never dampened his spirits or resolve & these had no visible impact on his day to day functioning or his normal conduct or demeanor for that matter. He had the courage to face any eventuality upfront.
Mufti Sb observed propriety in all his doings & dealings. Never ever did he cross any red line for his self or political gain. He always recognized distinction between work ethics & commerce, public duty & private gain. He was a visionary & would look ahead of his times. He was conscious & concerned about the conflict situation in his home state & suffering of his people. That explains his striving for peace between India & Pakistan which he thought was the only way to save his people from any future disaster. For this he went all the way to bring what he called in his words (South Pole & North Pole) together. But alas he met his end on the way.
It was not in his destiny to make history by bringing warring parties to a common ground, but he will be always remembered as someone who strived for peace & practiced politics with dignity & aplomb for public good all along. Mufti Sb had mastered art of persuasion. Being an ace organizer he had knack of winning over people by argument & could bring round even the hardest nut & make it crack. Here he is coaxing me to join congress which I escaped so narrowly after he evaluated me as unfit for politics.
May God rest his soul in peace (Rip).
(The Author is Former Chief Justice of JK High Court)