Had Mufti Mohammad Sayeed lived for five more days, we would have celebrated his 80th birthday today. Mufti Sahib died at 79, a poor man in the materialistic sense. For someone who had been a chief minister twice, tourism, civil aviation and home minister once each, and in spite of the clout associated with these positions, he made no millions. Imagine that. But if there is anything he left behind it is his unflinching commitment and never-ending pursuit to bring peace to the region - something that would remain an inspiration for all of us.
Mufti Sahib would be an inspiration for believing in the unbelievable. For standing against the tide. For making possible a formidable opposition in Jammu and Kashmir.
But above all, if there is anything, which he wanted and wished for most it was peace and friendly relations between India and Pakistan. Even during the last days of his exemplary life, Mufti Sahib would constantly ask his daughter and Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti about the progress of the India-Pakistan dialogue.
Perhaps, from his experience, he had come to the conclusion that for the larger stability of his state and the dignity of its people, India and Pakistan had to sow the seeds of peace in the region which would ultimately realise his dream of stable and a prosperous Kashmir.
He had described the dramatic thaw in the frosty relations between the two neighbouring countries as “a victory of his people”. He always hoped that the reconciliation process between the two nuclear-armed neighbours would have a positive result on the people of Jammu and Kashmir who have been yearning for peace for decades.
His family members would tell you that when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Pakistan to greet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on December 25, he had a smile on his face, despite his failing health.
He believed that friendly relations between India and Pakistan was possible, and it is unbelievable how despite all odds he managed to convince the leadership in New Delhi to make an effort for dilaouge with Pakistan.
Five days have passed since Mufti Sahib passed away and we are now trying to gather ourselves and trying to figure out what we have lost.
The best tribute the Indian state and its people can possibly pay him is to commit themselves unflinchingly to India-Pakistan reconciliation, something he had envisaged throughout his life. His life, in fact, exemplified the forward movement that is slowly taking place in the resolution of the Kashmir issue as well as in India-Pakistan relations.
Inspirational leaders leave a deep imprint on the minds of people and on societies in general. They know the value of peace and throughout their lives demonstrate a steadfast commitment to peace, not just with development but also with human dignity. That is what we would remember Mufti Sahib for.
He knew if a place like Kashmir, convulsed by decades of political uncertainty and misplaced priorities, had to be developed; peace was imperative. That perhaps was the reason that when Prime Minister Modi visited Srinagar on November 7, Mufti Sahib emphasised that if India had to take a center stage in international politics, it has to take Pakistan along.
He emphasised that the people of Jammu and Kashmir want that a hand of friendship should be extended to Pakistan. He knew it from his own experience with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who surprised even his own colleagues by extending a hand of friendship towards Pakistan. And when he did so, hostilities between the two nations eased for ten years. It brought peace not just to the people living along the Line of Control and the international border, but also to the people inside Jammu and Kashmir.
Even when Mufti Sahib become the chief minister of the state for the first time, he pushed tirelessly for an unconditional dialogue between the government of India and Kashmiris. With great effort he provided a healing touch to the people, demanded action against custodial deaths and human rights abuses.
Peace is common good for societies which have often been deprived of it, and its value is only cherished by those who have been victims in its absence. Violence, doesn’t matter by which party, has no place in modern societies. So dialogue between adversaries is a must. This is what Mufti Sahib's mission was and something which he believed in.
In spite of working like a 22-year-old Mufti Sahib never complained to anyone. Anyone who has closely worked with him would tell you that even while struggling on the hospital bed he would often tell doctors treating him at the AIIMS to finish his treatment so that he could return to work. “Bahut Sara Kaam Karna Hai Abhi,” he would say.
Leaders, they say, are not made but they are born with qualities. Mufti Sahib has left a void in the state politics, which may not be filled by anyone for a long time.
Let us all work to realise the dream of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed to bring peace and normalcy between India and Pakistan. That would be our lasting tribute to this great man.