When Ghulam Muhammad Mir alias Mamma Kanna, a notorious Ikhwani or militant-turned-counterinsurgent was awarded the Padma Shri award in 2010, the development turned into a major controversy in his native Kashmir.
While the then ruling National Conference had recommended Kanna for the honour, the opposition- Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) raised a hue and cry saying conferring the fourth-highest civilian honour to Ikhwani was “a humiliation for the Kashmiri people.” “He is a person who is very much hated by the people in the state because he has allegations of having forced many innocent boys to pick up guns,” PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti had told NDTV back then.
Today when she is in power, her father and late Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed’s name has been dropped from the list of Padma awardees for 2017. It is the same Mufti, who in 2015 allied with the right-wing Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) to form the government in J&K and termed it as “coming together of north and south poles.”
After his death on January 7, 2016, his daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, continued the alliance with BJP, holding the two poles together. But as of now, ironically, one of the poles has repelled to Mufti’s name for prospective Padma Shri posthumously.
On January 25, the union government announced Padma awards for 89 people from different walks of life on the eve of the Republic Day. But one of the names reportedly dropped from the list at the last minute was that of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. As per a report in The Indian Express, the officials and leaders of PDP have confirmed the news.
While officials say his family was “not very keen” for the honour, here’s some reality check: the family’s keenness doesn’t really matter much in such issues! Though nominations are often proposed by the state governments, it’s the central government’s final call. And the final decision is supposed to be taken on merit and can not be inspired by family recommendations.
But then, if renegade Mamma Kanna was worth Padma Shri, why not Mufti, who is often seen as an astute Indian visionary. A man who qualified to be Union Home Minister is supposed to be more deserving than a renegade like Mamma Kanna who changed course and went from being militant to trained counter-insurgent.
Mufti’s conviction of being staunch visionary Indian is an open book. Senior separatist leader Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, whom former Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) chief AS Dulat acknowledges him as “friend, philosopher and guide” in his book, Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years, is known for his witty remarks. It is said that once Prof Gani was asked about Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, Farooq Abdullah. Prof Gani had a witty reply. “Azad is Indian by accident, Dr Farooq Abdullah by compulsion and Mufti by conviction.”
Ironically, an Indian by conviction has been dropped from the list of awardees by the central government run by the party, which could never come to power in J&K!
While the ruling PDP is tightlipped over Mufti not being honoured with Padma Shri, the issue won’t gain much importance in his hometown Kashmir. Here such awards are not admired mainly due to the separatist sentiment driving the people. So if Mufti family was “not keen” to get him honoured, PDP may cash the move in public circles.
But politically speaking, Mufti’s not being conferred with Padma Shri seems to be a bigger humiliation than what Mehooba once found in Mamma Kanna’s felicitation with the same award. After all, if Kanna made it to the list of honoured citizens despite being accused of murder and human rights violations, why no Padma Shri for the man who dedicated his life in strengthening pro-India ideology in Kashmir and played the biggest gamble of his political life by “bringing north and south poles together”?