Mufti Mohammed Sayeed
Soon after he took over as the chief minister of troubled state
of Jammu and Kashmir in the first week of November last year, Mufti Mohammed
Sayeed, 66, described his new responsibility as a “Crown of thorns”. It
still is, says the chief minister even after the completion of two months
of his coalition government. But at the same time, the man who has a chequered
political career spanning to over five decades, seems to be relaxed man
who is trying to wipe tears from the faces of militancy-hit people of the
state. While he is overwhelmed to see tears of joy in the eyes of those
whom his government has provided succor in these past couple of months,
the Mufti however misses his favourite game of bridge as he has been devoting
his time to clear the “mess the state is into”. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed
speaks to KAVITA SURI on various like release of prisoners, his healing
touch policy, peace process etc Excerpts…
Mufti Mohd. Sayeed
Q: You have completed two months in office, but your promises are
still unfulfilled. For instance, your promise of disbanding SOG is still
a dream. Besides, you started on a high note; people have so many expectations
from you. Would you be able to sustain that?
I haven’t started on the high note. But yes, people’s expectations are
on rise. But these are because of the reason that they did not believe
their eyes and ears - Would the elections be held? Would these be free
and fair? Would their votes matter?…They had many apprehensions but when
they saw the results, they were elated.
My effort are to come up to their expectations. Within this brief period
of two months, I visited all the districts and held district development
board meetings to speed up development process and mitigate people's sufferings.
Government also acceded to the genuine demands of the people of Ladakh
and assured redress of grievances of people in all regions and areas.
Whatever we had pledged - to start a political process, to restore peace
with dignity, to deliver a good corruption free government and to address
their socio-economic problems, we have started working in that direction.
Though we have not done much but we have made a small beginning.
Regarding Special Operations Group(SOG),its reorientation is already
on the ground. The J&K Police has to play a key role in containing
Q: There are reports that Centre has difference with your government
over various issues. Even that was also reflective in your policy of release
of political prisoners and militants.
There is no disagreement with the State and Centre as to how to face
the challenges confronting Jammu and Kashmir State. Our Government has
a ‘complete understanding’ with the Centre as far as ‘security concerns’
of the State are concerned. Whether it was Prime Minister or Deputy Prime
Minister, they have realized the ground realities behind Kashmir problem.
The Congress which is a partner in the State Government, too understands
the problem very well. My government is committed to dialogue and taking
steps to make situation conducive for it. Even the Prime Minister had said
from the rampant of Red Fort on Independence Day last year that the Government
of India would talk with the representatives of the people of the State
and others section, for resolution of the Kashmir problem. There is a great
opening and none of us should miss it.
Besides, I know what I am doing. It is a multi-prolonged strategy.
Under it, we are striving to give healing touch to the victims of militancy,
provide to the people responsive and accountable administration free of
corruption, favoritism, red-tapism and address to people's problems.
You have been trying to evolve a consensus on Kashmir at the national
Yes, a consensus needs to be evolved at state and national level for
resolution of the problem. I would continue building consensus at the national
level for a dialogue to end the ongoing bloodshed and sufferings of the
people. I hope such consensus would ultimately evolve with the largest
political party of the country appreciating the need for a dialogue and
the NDA government at the Centre also recognizing the need to provide a
healing touch to the situation. There is no alternative to win over the
hearts of the people for ushering the state into a positive change.
Q: Your healing touch policy is not showing any positive sign on
ground. Kashmir province particularly has been rocked by demonstrations
against the alleged excesses of security forces. Several people are missing
Isn’t it good? Protest-demonstrations are good. It shows that people
feel relaxed. We are delivering too. I would give two instances. In Kreeri
in Pattan, a civilian died in army firing. Mehbooba went there and that
army officer was immediately transferred. In Mocchu also where a civilian
died in policed custody, we acted. That is part of democratic functioning.
That is good.
Q: When K.C.Pant was appointed interlocutor by the Centre to talk
to all sections of society including National Conference, your party opposed
saying that talks should be held with separatists because they are the
peeved section. Now after coming to power you have taken a sudden turnabout
and you are saying that talks should be held with elected representatives
and "other sections". In a way you are trying to put Hurriyat and other
separatists with other sections?
No, but Centre should initiate a dialogue with the elected representatives
of the state as promised by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his
Independence Day address. Now even the Deputy PM Mr Advani on his recent
visit to J&K has said that they would be talking to others and us too.
The Government of India should not feel shy of talking. The J&K Assembly
has the credibility and representative character in all aspects.
Q: Even Hurriyat is feeling threatened by you as you have hijacked
You should also look at the fact that Hurriyat leaders like Mirwaiz
Maulvi Umar Farooq have said that let this government do the good work.
Even JKLF’s Javed Mir has appreciated us. They are bit defensive. But that
Q: Your popularity graph has slide down considerably in the valley
because of your policies. The police excesses in Batamaloo; Nawab Bazaar
and other parts of valley have put the government in a tight spot. They
are now feeling that you are a new avatar of Dr Abdullah. A few days ago
some policemen were killed by ultras and later to avenge the killings,
police thrashed several shopkeepers and handcarts were set ablaze besides
destroying the goods worth lakhs of rupees. Is this the healing touch you
No, but such small things keep on happening. There is revulsion among
the people. Our MLA was shot dead and thousand of people came out on road
demanding that the assassin should be brought to book. Among people, there
is much reaction. Even Hizbul Mujahideen said they did not do it. So, even
they say that if this government is doing something good, let them do it.
Q: Recently, you said that there were certain vested interests who
were trying to sabotage your healing touch policy and your government.
Yes, my government faces a big challenge from some vested interests
who want to "sabotage healing touch policy. But however hard these people
will try to sabotage my policy of healing touch, I will be undeterred and
would go from home to home and village to village for providing it.
Q: But when you were saying that there were these vested interests
, were you referring to some central leaders?
No, I meant vested interests within the state, those who are thriving
on militancy. Unfortunately, few people have this mindset. They say Mufti
is soft on militants. But Centre and other leaders understand our situation.
You must have seen Blackwill’s reaction. A recent write up in Washington
Post hailed my healing touch policy and advised governments of both India
and Pakistan to allow my government to function smoothly Such opportunity
rarely comes. You cannot negate such response. We are making a small beginning
in that direction.We want to create a ‘conducive atmosphere’ for talks.
I urge the ‘local boys’, who have taken to the guns to abandon this path.
Q: But then you policy of healing touch and release of prisoners
has come under fire from various quarters.
Well, it is a battle of ideas. We are for healing touch, we are for
dialogue and we are for political process. It suits parties to criticize
us. But we also have security concerns. After all, it was our MLA who was
shot dead. But we have to deal with it politically, gun is no solution.
Those who have taken to gun, we tell them we are for peace, we are for
dialogue. I do not think they have any reason to taken to guns.
And regarding your other question about release of prisoners, this is
not done to "appease" any section of the people but because I firmly believed
in the "battle of ideas" in a democratic set up. Our government had the
mandate of the people to deliver and we are not irresponsible.
Q: But whatever you are doing, that is, as you say, is trying to
Let them do, we have to face that. People who want to it do it from
Ander Se and Baher Se (inside and outside), want to derail the peace process.
Q: Bahar Se means Pakistan?
Yes, they also do it, Why not. They try to derail the process. Mr Kasoori,
Pakistan’s foreign minister said this government is a representative government
and the GoI has to talk to Mufti also. See the voices within Pakistan.
Even Sardar Qayoom Khan who is the chairman of Pakistan’s Kashmir Committee
said the same thing.
Q: Few reports also suggest that Pakistan’s ISI is trying to sabotage
See, one should not blame the other side always.It is we who have to
address the internal dimensions. We have to address the alienation of people.
We have to try and win hearts and minds of the people. Ander Aag Lagne
Wali Cheez Nahin Ho To Aag Nahin Lag Sakti…Pakistan used to do it
earlier also. So we cannot blame it entirely on to Pakistan. They have
always been trying to do it.
However, all such elements couldn’t survive without the ‘internal strife’.
If the internal discontent was over, no force can ignite the fire from
outside. We are determined to move ahead. Let there should be no doubts
about that. We will carry forward the peace process initiated by our Government.
We will deliver the goods and bring people of the State out of the present
‘daldal’ (mess) in which they had been trapped for several years now.
Q: You emphasize the need for giving 'healing touch' to the victims
of militancy. But what about the issue of return of Kashmiri
migrants to their homes and hearth with dignity and honour?
A plan has been prepared for their rehabilitation in groups which needs
Centre's financial support. The Pandits represent unity in diversity in
Kashmir. It was our goal that they are rehabilitated in their homes. We
don’t claim that it will happen in a day but we will start the process
Q: Your policy of providing government jobs to at least one person
of a family has almost fizzled out. After coming to power, you have changed
the policy and banned the recruitment, which has again created disenchantment
No, I had said that those families which have no earning members, would
be given preference. We are working towards that. Recruitment in government
departments is being institutionalized leaving no scope for any wrongdoing
, not even for the Chief Minister, Ministers or legislators to interfere.
Sanctity has to be restored to the institution by making appointments transparent
and as per norms. Thus, only the deserving would get the employment in
government sector. The victims of militancy, provided they fulfill the
criteria, would also have preference in appointment against the vacancies.
Besides, a revolving fund would be created on voluntary basis for the education
of those destitute children whose fathers had picked up gun and got killed.
I believe that these children are not at fault for what their parents had
done. I appeal to rich people to voluntarily donate to this cause so that
the children of such families were provided education and made better citizens
of the country.
I have also urged the Mr George Fernades to launch special drives for
recruitment of J&K Youth in Defence and Paramilitary forces with special
emphasis on border areas and Kashmir valley. Our State has very little
avenues of employment and recruitment in different forces would not only
give jobs to our youth but also ensure their participation in the defence
of the country. More employment is being created in social sectors especially
in education and health. We would be recruiting about 2500 people in state
Q: What is different between Dr Farooq Abdullah and Mufti Mohommad
Sayeed. People say that both are the same. Particularly in the matter of
governance, both are the same?
Well, that is up to you to see. But things are quite different from
the previous government. There is so much of relaxed atmosphere. Accessibility
is there, people are coming and voicing their grievances, our elected representatives
are also easily available and having been going to masses. We are reaching
out to the people everywhere, especially those who are victims of militancy.
Except for Anantnag, Kathua and Kupwara, we covered all the districts giving
succors to them in the form of jobs. Whether they were children or families
of those assassinated by militants or martyrs of Kargil or those hit by
shelling from across the border, we gave them job. This is a continuing
process. I tell you, I saw tears of joy in the eyes of these people. Infact,
we are considering a proposal for seeking the co-operation of people to
mitigate the sufferings of those suffered due to militancy. Though some
measures have been taken and job provided to some of the victims, yet much
is required to be done.
People have reposed trust in me and we are committed to fulfill its
promises and bring about a positive change in the situation. Kashmiris
are highly responsible and want peace with dignity. They have been caught
between the two guns and are desperate to get out of this situation and
we are helping them out.
I ask you and everybody to judge us by our performance. We will
show you the results.
Q: Your recently empowered Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) . But don’t you think that it can triggered off a series of such
demands for having Autonomous Council in other parts of the state too?
I do not see. If you address the injustice, if each district will get
is due share, there would be no problem. We have given the powers which
were already there in Hill Council. Ladakh
Autonomous Hill Development Council authority needed to be restored
to it. In fact, coalition government wants to make it clear that justice
will be done with all the three regions of Kashmir, Ladakh and Jammu. I
am working towards satiating the urges of the people. There should be no
cause for fighting the rights as all issues could be sorted out through
Q: You often say that one of the main achievements of your government
is that almost round the clock power facility has been given to people.
How you have achieved that in the state which is used to over 10-12 hours
of power curtailment?
We have given substantial relief to the people by giving to them uninterrupted
power supply during night and morning and reducing the cut in even during
day time. These measures costing the State government Rs. 30 crore monthly.
We want to continue it and have sought Centre's financial help to offset
this expenditure. I even brought all these problems and genuine needs of
the people of the state to the notice of the Prime Minister in a recent
meeting with him.
I have taken several measures for collection of power tariff to cover
the increasing deficit on account of supply of electricity to the consumers
and said that the collection system needs to be institutionalized. I have
asked the department to prepare a pragmatic and time bound action plan
for collection of power dues and show results immediately making it abundantly
clear that it would be entire responsibility of the senior officers to
ensure recovery of the tariff.
It is a matter of concern that there are about 10 lakh unauthorized
connections. So I have ordered a massive drive to be launched all over
the state to regularize these and bring every consumer within the ambit
of power collection. At the same time, power tariff collection system should
be simplified and made consumer friendly so that nobody has to face inconvenience
in depositing the fee.
Several other important decisions of far reaching consequences have
been taken to broad base the mechanism for realization of power tariff
from the consumers. Every licence, document or certificate issued by any
government department would be issued only on the receipt of certificate
of the concerned executive engineer, PDD to the effect that applicant or
licencee and his family have cleared power dues till date. This decision
shall cover certificates like state subject, scheduled castes, schedule
tribes, backward classes, income certificate, applications for pass ports,
ration card and its renewal, building permissions by competent authorities,
all types of licences, etc.
Q: You have been trying very hard to revive tourism and industrial
sectors in the troubled state. What have you achieved so far? And what
about the revival of sick industries in the state?
Yes, that is also one of our priority areas. Almost all Public Sector
Units (PSUs) of the State Government are in the red and it would be government's
earnest efforts to bring these back on rails, especially those that can
be revived.. I am trying to revive sick PSUs also besides favouring local
employment in Central PSUs. We are persuading Centre Public Sector units
in J&K to give priority to the local available human resource to meet
their requirements. I would soon ask Central units like NHPC to give to
the State government their requirement for skilled and unskilled manpower
so that the district authorities can provide them the available manpower
and ensure that the benefit of the project percolate to the areas concerned.
As regards skilled manpower, the authorities would accordingly train the
locals in the particular trade.
Besides, we are constituting a core group for revival of viable sick
industrial units in the State. But there would be any question of providing
subsidies for revival of all units as our experience in the past has not
been very happy. If ever such help is found to be vital for revival and
promotion of industries, it could be given in the shape of kind like paying
for electric dues, infrastructural assistance etc. Unfortunately , even
after disbursing huge money as subsidy to industrialists by the previous
governments, industrialization has not picked up in the state.
A new industrial policy is being formulated to attract private investment
in the State. The existing policy is expiring on March 2003. While I have
personally invited big industrial houses of the country to make investment
in the State, which would be investment in peace, it would be my personal
desire to see local entrepreneurs to excel and make a mark on the industrial
map of Jammu and Kashmir and the country.