A POLITICIAN SPEAKS – YOU SHOULD HEAR
Tassaduq Mufti, we needed someone to say these words. Thank you.
- Nischay Pal
Tassaduq Mufti, we needed someone to say these words. Thank you.



REMEBER THE GREAT speech by Rabindranath Tagore on the crisis of civilization? It was the April of 1941, and Tagore was at his beloved Santiniketan. He wasn't in the pink of health, but his words ring across decades:

"As I look around I see the crumbling ruins of a proud civilization strewn like a vast heap of futility. And yet I shall not commit the grievous sin of losing faith in Man. I would rather look forward to the opening of a new chapter in his history after the cataclysm is over and the atmosphere rendered clean with the spirit of service and sacrifice...A day will come when unvanquished Man will retrace his path of conquest, despite all barriers, to win back his lost human heritage.
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In these times of utter darkness, from Kathua to Unnao, politicians are the one community people hardly look up to, for words of consolation, for words that resonate with their sense of utter disempowerment, for words that reflect the fact of our deadened collective souls.

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We all know of the great speech that Nehru made long years ago when we made a tryst with destiny. Alas, not till this moment have we redeemed our pledge, either in full measure or even very substantially, and we rarely hear even words that inspire us, that stir the soul of our nation, that give voice to the long suppressed and find utterance.

In these times of utter darkness, from Kathua to Unnao, politicians are the one community people hardly look up to, for words of consolation, for words that resonate with their sense of utter disempowerment, for words that reflect the fact of our deadened collective souls, for words that portray a picture of our times with an exactitude that can only come from either deep introspection or lived pain.

And yet in these times, a voice has rung out, one of a politician.

Where is the politician in this country who can dare to say: "Today the threat is that while we are in control, we are no longer trusted.” 
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Time may prove Tassaduq Mufti to be a fool of the first order, because he probably spoke without checking his words with a spinmaster, a speech writer, an image consultant. 
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Outside of the small circle of Kashmir-centric media and the consummate consumers of news from the distressed valley, few know of Tassaduq Mufti. And even among them, for most his identity is necessarily that of the brother of the J-K CM Mehbooba Mufti, and lately, as a minister.

So, when the Indian Express published his interview with Muzamil Jaleel, Tassaduq Mufti came out as a politician whose ear seemed attuned to not just the rising street of Kashmir but also of any citizen anywhere who today finds himself in a state of despair, who is left with a sense of helplessness and sadness with every morning's headlines, with every evening's television talkshows.

"We were supposed to be partners in rebuilding of this place but, sad to admit this, due to the non-fulfilling of commitments, we have ended up being partners in a crime that an entire generation of Kashmiris might have to pay with their blood.”

Was that too much truth to speak in a vocation called politics? Is there anything called "too much truth?"

Time may prove Tassaduq Mufti to be a fool of the first order, because he probably spoke without checking his words with a spinmaster, a speech writer, an image consultant. 

Or time will prove that in the darkest of the times there was space left for voices a country was in a dire need to listen to.

"If coalition politics is about living with a series of failures and ignominies, then I am sorry I don’t know how to hide my awkwardness and discomfort with it.” When was the last time you heard words so candid about what we have shamelessly come to term as acceptable limits of 'coalition dharma'? (We did not even question if it was even acceptable to use a term like 'coalition dharma'.)

A friend who drew my attention to Tassaduq Mufti's interview in the Indian Express was perhaps not sure if I would heed his advice and read it. In his message asking me to read the interview, he reminded me how, for long, cynicism has become part of our mental furniture —old, archaic and too heavy to move around. 

Little in the media or in our politico-speech inspires us to take it at its face value. In times of extreme cynicism and darkness all around, it is easy to dismiss this, too, as the rant of a practising politician, my friend said.

And that is so true. There is so much noise in the media. There is so much non-sense, and when there is sense, we do not know, pray, what vested interest is driving it.

So, it is easy to miss a voice of sanity in the cacophony of headlines and Arnab Goswamis. We have been house-trained in what to expect from our politicians, good and bad, and with what level of disdain to deal with it all. 
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There is so much noise in the media. There is so much non-sense, and when there is sense, we do not know, pray, what vested interest is driving it. Or time will prove that in the darkest of the times there was space left for voices a country was in a dire need to listen to.
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But do have the training about how to deal with these words of a politician: 

"We are seen as a government which has a lot of money to build latrines, to install transformers and to repair potholes but has no word of sympathy to offer to a hurt, alienated population. The only Centrally sponsored scheme that could have worked in Kashmir was a credible political initiative backed by the Centre that would be a departure from similar engagements of the past…but that most important element of compassion is still missing. Those in the Centre who believe that money can buy everything must remind themselves that Kashmiris have perfected the art of seeing through the silk-sheets of Shylockian politics.’’

Have we, over decades, honed our finer senses to the extent where we up our guard anytime someone says something meaningful, and look for what must be his or her motive? True, when politics becomes a game too beastly, it takes some effort to retain our wits around us and read something for its face value. 

Tassaduq Mufti said, "We find ourselves today at the cross roads of despair and abandonment.’’

Who among us today can say these are not the exact words that describe very correctly what we feel about our times, our politics, our country?

"I am disturbed by this reality and it constantly weighs on my mind. But to keep silent when every other day is a day of mourning, when young shoulders are carrying the burden of our collective inadequacies, when the repeated rape and murder of an eight-year-old child finds advocacy in the name of religion, would be a sin."

Are we listening to what we thought we would never hear? Has he recently gotten a speech writer equipped with an ability to churn out an extraordinary turn of phrase? Some Aaron Sorkin's Sam Seaborn lurking behind those "silk-sheets of Shylockian politics," the "fringed curtains of thine eye advance," merely recanting "what thou seest yond?" (with due apologies to the Bard.)

In times when politicians are being accused of a remarkable level of sophistication to control the narrative, even courting a Cambridge Analytica, here is a voice that says, "We can’t get into war of narratives."

In a country where people have started telling anyone they see as "the other" to go to Pakistan, here is a brave soul that says, "All lives matter. Lives of the people on both sides of ideological divide."
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"I do not want that the number of passenger planes landing at Srinagar airport is used as a counter-argument to the number of coffins that are interned elsewhere. I don’t want that we have to hide our tears from our guests and hide our guests from the mourners on the streets.”
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Tassaduq Mufti is the Minister for Tourism in Mehbooba Mufti's government. I have no idea why Muzamil Jaleel asked him anything related to his portfolio, but I am glad he did, because this is the answer he elicited from Tassaduq Mufti:

"I do not want that the number of passenger planes landing at Srinagar airport is used as a counter-argument to the number of coffins that are interned elsewhere. I don’t want that we have to hide our tears from our guests and hide our guests from the mourners on the streets.”

Tassaduq Mufti, a few weeks from now, perhaps a few months from now, or a few years down the lane, you may turn out to be a politician like any other. Or you may not. But we will always remember this April of 2018 when we heard your voice - clear, candid, reflective and sane.

And to our utter misfortune, a little too rare. 

(Readers interested in reading Tassaduq Mufti’s interview in the Indian Express may click https://goo.gl/QCwVr4 )
 
 

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