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Mufti Sayeed dies in Delhi, body flown to Srinagar

By The Assam Tribune

Srinagar, Jan 7 (IANS): Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, who led the first coalition government in the State also involving the BJP, died in New Delhi on Thursday, 14 days after he was hospitalized.

Amid national mourning, his body was flown to Srinagar for eventual burial in his hometown Bijbehara.

Sayeed, who was also India's first Muslim Home Minister, passed away at 9.10 am at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, three days after he was put on ventilator following a deterioration in his condition.

A severely diabetic, Sayeed "died due to bone marrow dysfunction", a hospital spokesman told IANS. He was admitted on December 24 with fever as well as chest infection.

Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sayeed - who survived several attacks on him by militants - was Chief Minister the first time in 2002-05 in a coalition government with the Congress. In his second stint, he allied with the BJP to become the Chief Minister in March last year as Assembly elections produced a hung verdict.

President Pranab Mukherjee led the nation in mourning Sayeed's death, saying his contribution to Jammu and Kashmir and India through long years of public service would always be remembered.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Sayeed's "exemplary leadership had a major impact on people's lives". Crediting him with "statesmanship", he said: "Mufti sahab provided a healing touch to Jammu and Kashmir."

Added Congress president Sonia Gandhi: "Muftiji's contribution as a humanist and to public life in various capacities will forever be remembered."

Sayeed was the third Chief Minister of the State to die in office -- after GM Sadiq (1971) and Sheikh Abdullah (1982).

As Sayeed's body was flown into Srinagar and was received by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and former Chief Ministers Ghulam Nabi Azad and Omar Abdullah as well as relatives, the Jammu and Kashmir Government announced a week-long mourning and a day's holiday on Thursday.

Sayeed's funeral prayers and burial will take place in the evening at the Dara Shikoh Park in Bijbehara in Anantnag district, PDP sources told IANS. His body was brought to Srinagar in an Indian Air Force plane.

The body was later taken to Sayeed's official residence here.

Born in Bijbehara on January 12, 1936 to a family of 'Peers' who earn their living by preaching and teaching religious practices, Sayeed studied in Srinagar and then at the Aligarh Muslim University before he joined politics in 1959.

After taking on the iconic Sheikh Abdullah, Sayeed became a Cabinet Minister in Jammu and Kashmir in 1972. Just three years later, he became head of the State unit of the Congress party.

He joined Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's government in 1986 but quit the next year to throw his lot with VP Singh, who revolted against Gandhi's leadership and went on to become the Prime Minister in 1989.

Sayeed became the Home Minister in the VP Singh government -- the first Muslim to hold the crucial portfolio.

Within days, however, militants abducted his third daughter, Rubaiya Sayeed, in Srinagar, forcing the VP Singh Government to free five jailed guerrillas from Jammu and Kashmir.

In 1999, after a brief stint again in the Congress, when PV Narasimha Rao became its leader, Sayeed and daughter Mehbooba Mufti floated the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Mehbooba Mufti is now tipped to head the PDP-BJP coalition government.

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