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India's only Muslim home minister, former chief of Kashmir, dies at 79

By Ed Adamczyk Follow @adamczyk_ed Contact the Author   |   Jan. 7, 2016 at 12:04 PM

NEW DELHI, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, an Indian politician for six decades and chief minister of contested Jammu and Kashmir provinces, died Thursday at age 79.

Sayeed was India's only Muslim home minister, serving in that position from 1989 to 1990. He also served twice as chief minister of the restive northern states of Jammu and Kashmir, partially claimed by ideological rival Pakistan.

Sayeed was a fixture in the politics of Kashmir, India's only state with a Muslim majority, beginning in the 1950s with the Democratic National Conference. He joined the India National Congress at a time when most Kashmiris supported Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, and was regarded as an excellent organizer and administrator.

He was later a cabinet minister and a deal-maker and a leader of India's breakaway People's Democratic Party, whose numbers in Parliament grew from four seats in 1987 to 16 by 2002 and to 21 by 2008. Sayeed became an important bargainer in Indian coalition politics.

He had been hospitalized for a lung infection for two weeks before his death in New Delhi. Jammu and Kashmir announced a seven-day mourning period on Thursday, and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee said in a condolence message, "The contribution of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to Jammu and Kashmir and India through long years of public service will be always remembered."

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