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Lok Sabha polls: Ex-cricketer Sayim Mustafa’s fight is for neglected Kashmiri youth

Ehsan Fazili/Srinagar

Former cricketer Sayim Mustafa, who played T-20 for Jammu and Kashmir and is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Srinagar, says his fight is for the Kashmiri youth who were neglected and suffered the most during last three decades of militancy and turmoil.

“The Youth have suffered a lot during militancy and I believe they want to see a change in the leadership,” He bats for younger leaders because, they “are “energetic and can empathize with the needs and aspirations of the youth much better.”

Sayim Mustafa who is in his early 30’s and hails from Manigam in Ganderbal, represented Jammu and Kashmir in T-20 cricket in 2017. He is among the 24 candidates contesting in the prestigious Srinagar constituency. The fight for Srinagar is among eight candidates from political parties and 16 independents, including him. The constituency goes to the polls in the fourth phase on May 13. 


Sayim Mustafa submitting his nomination papers to the returning officer, Srinagar

“As a youth, I did not want the repeat of the earlier brand of politics, where voters have only the choice ”between National Conference and PDP, the traditional political parties,” Sayim Mustafa told Awaz-The Voice before leaving home for yet another day of hectic campaigning in the few days left before the polling.

“Therefore I decided to be independent and go to the people”, he said, adding that the majority of the people “want a change”. The voters in this central Kashmir constituency wanted “to see youth into politics”. He pointed out that the youth had been “ignored” during the past three decades of violence.

With this “in my mind, I felt that in the mid ’30s, I could do a lot for the people”, Sayim said. “We believe that they (senior politicians) cannot be active and run like me”.

He said he “always wanted some change”. The youth can be members of local Panchayats, Sarpanch, BDCs and DDCs and become active in developmental, social and political affairs, he said. 

Sayim Mustafa (second from left) with Muzzaffar Shah and other s at an Iftaar party in Srinagar

Sayim Mustafa is accompanied by a Youth brigade on his campaigning wherever he goes, His public rallies see mostly men young and old listening to him intently. 

Without naming any party, he said, he was asked to sit to prevent division of votes. “I asked them as BJP is not in the fray and the bigger alliances that promised to get back Article 370 to Kashmiris have broken up why should I back out from the contest.”

Sayim said that the active participation of the youth, under the valuable guidance of the elderly political leaders, could go a long way in the overall development to make the areas as “shining” examples of growth and development.

Sayim said that during the campaign he realized people expect those who they elect in the Lok Sabha elections to work for the “release of the youth from jails”. 

He said, “A stone-thrower who has been in jail for 15-20 years is now a changed person touching 40 years of his age and wanting to live a normal life”.  

Sayim Mustafa as chief guest at a local cricket tournament

He claimed that the youth continued to be targeted in many ways. “They are being detained whenever Union Home Minister or other senior leaders are visiting Kashmir as a precautionary measure. The youth are required to be engaged, they need jobs and the infrastructure growing…medical and other facilities”, Sayim commented.

Sayim Mustafa owes his political legacy to his great-grandfather, Ghulam Qadir Bhat, who according to Sayim was the first Member of Parliament (MP), representing Srinagar. At that time, members of parliament were nominated from Jammu and Kashmir (1951 to 1957). 

Ghulam Qadir Bhar was the Chief Administrator of Ladakh between 1948 and 1951. 

For his political acumen, Bhat was popularly known as “Sher-e-Ganderbal” at a time when Sheikh Mohammd Abdullah, the founder of the National Conference, was called ‘Sher-e-Kashmir”.

“Politics is in my blood and that is what has motivated me to contest…. I have come across a difficult (political) situation since my early days. Politics is the best way, and there is a need for more young persons to join politics”, he commented.

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Having played cricket in almost all the areas across Jammu and Kashmir, Sayim has been able to rope in the young brigade. He could not continue with his cricket passion due to his back injury after the 2017 T-20 series. He has to his credit a Post-Graduate degree in Public Administration and an advanced Diploma course in Computer Sciences

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