Mufti Mohammad Sayeed: India's First Muslim Home Minister

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Mufti Mohammad Sayeed: India's First Muslim Home Minister

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Srinagar:  Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed died at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi on Thursday morning. He was 79.

Mr Sayeed had been in hospital for two weeks and was being treated for a lung infection. He was put on ventilator support on Wednesday after his condition worsened.

The Mufti was serving his second stint as J&K chief minister. He had taken oath in March last year, several weeks after the state delivered a fractured verdict in assembly elections. His People's Democratic Party emerged as the single largest party but with not enough seats to form government. It has partnered in an often uneasy alliance with ideological opposite the BJP to govern Jammu and Kashmir.

After  the fractured verdict in the 2014 assembly elections, Mr Sayeed termed a possible alliance with BJP as being similar to "North Pole meeting South Pole". But he went ahead with it, believing it was the only option and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the only leader who could deliver peace by engaging with Pakistan.

For decades, Mr Sayeed was the face of the Congress in Kashmir. In 1983, he was accused of engineering a split in the National Conference and toppling the Farooq Abdullah government.

But when Farooq Abdullah and Rajiv Gandhi joined hands and contested the 1987 elections together, Mr Sayeed quit the Congress and joined VP Singh.

In 1989, he became India's first Muslim home minister in the VP Singh government. It was during his tenure that the controversial Armed Forces Special power Act was enforced in Jammu and Kashmir.  The revocation of this Act is one of the key slogans of his Jammu and KAshmir People's Democratic Party, which he formed along with daughter Mehbooba Mufti in 1999.

Once berated as being Delhi's man and for standing up against Kashmir's tallest leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Mufti Mohamad Sayeed transformed his image after the PDP's formation, with a soft separatist agenda of self-rule or limited sovereignty for the state.

Less than three years after its formation, the PDP won 16 seats in the Valley in the 2002 assembly elections.

Following some hard bargaining with the Congress, Mr Sayeed became the Chief Minister of the first PDP-Congress government in the state that year. He stayed in office for three years under an arrangement of rotating the CM's post between the partners.

Mr Sayeed maintained that the last wish of his 60-year-long political career was peace between India and Pakistan and said that the decision to forge an alliance with the BJP, the ruling party at the Centre,  was to fulfil his dream.

"We had peace for 10 years after Vajpayee peace initiative from Kashmir. PM Modi should act like big brother in the region," the Mufti had said at a rally on November 7, 2015 in Srinagar, which the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attended.

Mr Sayeed will also be remembered for the controversial and much-discussed release of some top Kashmiri militants in exchange for his daughter Rubiya Sayeed when he was the home minister. Last year, he said it was the biggest regret of his life and that he would take that to his grave.

Mr Sayeed's last rites were performed at his ancestral village in Anantnag's Bijbehara in south Kashmir this evening.

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