Last month, we learnt from highly placed sources that the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mufti Sayeed was undergoing hallucinatory experiences; his advanced age of 79 summers taking a toll on his old mind and bladder made him see ghosts of the bygone era called 2002-2005.
Now just last week, our sources told us that Mufti was feeling dizzy and then, in the next few moments, whirling like a (very slow) dervish. He was almost going to fell down but Naeem Akhtar, the crusading education minister of J&K, emerged like Shaktimaan and caught him mid-air.
“Thank you, Naeem,” Mufti told him in a meek old man’s voice.
“Mention not, Mufti sahib. Anything for you.”
After recovering from this momentously sudden fall (which was kept under wraps by the PDP’s clever PR men and women), Mufti asked for Mehbooba Mufti, Syed Altaf Bukhari, Syed Basharat Bukhari, and Naeem Akhtar Andrabi.
No one knows what transpired in this highly secretive meeting, not even well-known PDP acolytes like Waheed Parra. However, the meeting has particularly piqued the Srinagar press colony where Mufti’s falling health has set tongues wagging and rumors mills churning.
Recently, over a cup of tea, senior journalist Naseer told me in no uncertain terms: “I always told my friends and colleagues that PDP is an upper-class syndicate. Did you hear about the recent secret meeting Mufti called? I heard that he only called Peers into that meeting. He’s at the fag end of his life; he probably wanted to pass on some message like those Freemason and Illuminati types.”
Naseer is of the firm belief that politics in Kashmir is actually dominated by a few influential groups. For example, the PDP, which Naseer calls the “Peers’ Deceptive Party”, is dominated by people of what are called Peer surnames: Andrabi, Mufti, Bukhari etc.
Isaac, the naysayer, has a different view. “By saying that a pro-Indian party like PDP is peer dominated, Mr Naseer is implying that all Peers and Syeds in Kashmir are pro-India, which is factually incorrect. How can he say that—no, no, I would say how dare he say that? If you look at Hurriyat, yes Hurriyat Conference, you will find Peers there also, that too on top positions, like Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Not only that, even the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen is being run by a Peer, Syed Salahuddin. So how can you try to malign Peers like that?”
Naseer argues that Isaac is saying what he too wants to drive at, that the Kashmiri political, cultural, and educational institutions are dominated by certain influential groups. As an example, he points out that Board of Directors of the resource-rich Muslim Wakf Board, which takes care of the shrines and the mosques in Kashmir and the donations and offerings to them, has nine members, out of which five are from the Peer group.
“Peers and Syeds are like the Kammas and Reddys of Kashmir,” he says. “If they are in ideologically opposite groups, that still does not make any sense. It is like Manish Tewari blaming Arun Jaitley blaming Barkha Dutt blaming Sudhir Chaudhary blaming blah blah blah…but at the end they are all upper castes.”
“He is actually jealous of Peers for their intellectual superiority,” scoffs Isaac. “Peers achieve top positions because they are intelligent; why should there be a problem with that?”
Naseer believes that is hogwash. “Meritocracy is mostly overrated. Success depends not solely on one’s merit but considerably on one’s network and access to resources. If Basharat Peer was any other ordinary Kashmiri and not one from a privileged background with a cultivated network,Curfewed Night would probably not have been published by Random House.”
In the meantime, the information gathered from the media and snatches from tea vendors and barber shops tell us that Mufti Sayeed may pass on the chair of Chief Ministership to his beloved daughter Mehbooba Mufti anytime soon.
“Mehbooba is in the town, she is seen everywhere, and she is making all the right noises,” says Gul Kak, the most impartial political analyst in Kashmir. “Walla! Something is cooking!”
Sul Kak, a longtime comrade of Gul Kak, adds, “Mufti will die with a big regret though, that Manmohan’s Aman ki Asha was turned into a big nirasha by the 56-inch chest of Modi sarkar.”
Published in Kindle Magazine, September 2, 2015: http://kindlemag.in/peer-ing-into-the-abyss/