The Bharatiya Janata Party has pulled out of its alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir. In the January 2016 cover story, Praveen Donthi reported on Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and how he came to be the centre’s man in Kashmir. Sayeed, who founded the PDP, became chief minister after the alliance was formed in early 2015; his daughter, Mehbooba, succeeded him after he died. “To understand Sayeed ... is to understand how the government of India has, over decades, warped the very nature of democracy in Jammu and Kashmir, often distorting it beyond recognition,” Donthi wrote.
In the following extract from the story, Donthi reports on the unsettling nature of the BJP-PDP alliance, and the reactions that followed it.
On 3 October 2015, the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly met for the first sitting of its autumn session. The day was to be spent remembering a number of prominent individuals who had died recently, most of them state politicians, such as the former ministers Mir Ghulam Mohammad Poonchi, Ghulam Rasool Kar, and Abdul Ghani Shah Veeri. Also on the list was the former president of India, APJ Abdul Kalam.
Towards the end of the session, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, and the leader of the assembly, rose to speak. Hawk-nosed and silver-haired, with heavy bags under his eyes and a slightly tense manner, Sayeed exuded the air of a disgruntled professor.
Sayeed began by paying warm tributes to the legislators, whom he had known, and outlived. He also paid tribute to the thousands of Hajj pilgrims who had been killed in a crowd disaster the previous month in Mecca, Saudi Arabia; two of them were from Jammu and Kashmir. Sayeed called for a “credible enquiry” into the incident, and demanded that people not play “a blame game on this tragedy.” He then began to recite a verse from the Quran.