Ms. Mehbooba Mufti on April 04, 2016 at 11 AM made history by becoming the first woman to assume the office of Chief Minister in Jammu and Kashmir. Her rise in the politics of the State signals a new era in gender equality and empowerment in a society that is by and large still rooted in traditions. Nobody can deny her the credit for putting in hard work and displaying requisite acumen for not only surviving but carving a separate niche for herself in J&K’s turbulent political history.
Born on 22 May 1959 at Akhran, Nowpora in district Islamabad, Ms Mehbooba is amongst the most recognized political leaders not only in Jammu & Kashmir, but throughout the country.
Ms Mehbooba has been a dominant force in J&K politics and is presently the President of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) founded together by her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his colleagues in 1999.
Being a grassroots political activist, much of the credit for building PDP as a strong regional political force, goes to Ms Mehbooba. She took over the reins of the party in 2008 and steered it to emerge as the single largest party in the State in 2014 assembly elections.
Ms Mehbooba is a politician by choice who responded to a political situation when Jammu and Kashmir was in the grip of a gloomy scenario of violence and its tragic fallout as the State was reeling under extremely adverse conditions on politico-economic fronts.
Distressed by the tragedies of turmoil, Ms Mehbooba and her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed decided to reach out to the people and re-establish the lost contact between the citizens and the State to repair their hurt psyche, salvage their bruised dignity, rekindle a new hope in their hearts and motivate them to mould their destiny through a participatory political process. She is one of the few politicians in Jammu and Kashmir, who has traversed every nook and corner of the State, sometimes covering extensive treacherous distances on foot, with no cavalcades, not many escorts, no jammers and no cell phones to reach out to the people.
The VIPs who attended the oath taking ceremony of Ms Mehbooba Mufti, In 2002 assembly elections, people recognized PDP as an emerging and alternative political force in the State and gave it a modest mandate which led to the historic initiatives in J&K with the famous punch-line of “Healing Touch”. While Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was busy steering the State out of the most terrible era of its history, Ms Mehbooba’s strenuous work at the grassroots level produced an instant impact of the substantial politico-economic measures initiated by the then Government. Despite being daughter of an influential politician, Ms Mehbooba had a routine traditional Kashmiri upbringing. She has been greatly influenced by two persons in her life – her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and maternal grandfather Ghulam Mustafa Nazim, in whose company she has spent most part of her life.
She schooled from Presentation Convent School in Srinagar and graduated in English literature from Government College for Women, Parade in Jammu. She went on to obtain a degree in Law from University of Kashmir and got married soon after completion of her law degree. But her marriage later ran into problems.
She shifted to New Delhi in 0ctober 1989 and joined Bombay Mercantile Bank to be financially independent to take care of her infant daughters. She also worked with East West Airlines for sometime before moving back to J&K. Ms Mehbooba left the job and returned to the State to help her father in his political work. She contested her maiden assembly election in 1996 from the home constituency of Bijbehara in district Islamabad nobody was ready to contest from there due to fear of militancy. With her daughters, Irtiqa and Iltija, in the primary school at that time, Ms Mehbooba won the election and became a lawmaker for the first time.
Ms Mehbooba quickly made a mark as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party in the State Assembly, taking on the government of then chief minister Farooq Abdullah with asperity.
In run up to the formation of PDP in 1999, Ms Mehbooba resigned her assembly seat and went on to contest the Parliamentary Elections from Srinagar in 1999.
She successfully contested the Assembly elections from Pahalgam constituency of district Islamabad in 2002 and vacated the seat in 2004 as she was elected to the Lok Sabha from Islamabad-Pulwama Parliamentary constituency. She again successfully contested the State Assembly elections in 2008 from Wachi constituency of district Shopian. In May 2014 she was re-elected to the Lok Sabha from Islamabad-Pulwama parliamentary segment. She has served as a Member of the Parliamentary Standing Committees on Empowerment of Women, Information Technology and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Ms Mufti is so entrenched in local culture that the power hasn’t changed her. She is known for her compassion, courteousness and respect for her colleagues and common people. Given her value system of high personal and ideological integrity, Ms Mehbooba is set to question and change the traditional politics of the State to create a new narrative of public and political discourse.
(The profile was issued in a statement by J&K Information Department after Ms Mehbooba was sworn-in as first woman CM of Jammu and Kashmir.)
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