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Bukhari departs – his voice remains immortal

Syed Shujaat Bukhari, the 52-year-old Kashmir’s foremost journalist, a free voice and the Editor-in-Chief of Rising Kashmir who believed violence cannot end the Kashmir conflict but a political solution can, was laid to rest in his ancestral village Kreeri in Baramulla on Friday morning after he was shot dead right outside his office on Thursday. While thousands of his friends and admirers mourned the death of a fearless journalist and joined his funeral procession, the state police in the meanwhile have released CCTV footages of the suspects and the hunt for his killers continues.

Shujaat Bukhari was killed at the Press Enclave in Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar by three terrorists on a bike carrying weapons in a sack, as seen on the footage. Cops also released the photo of the fourth suspect in the case that shows a bearded man, wearing a white shirt, checking on Bukhari right after he was shot. He was shot multiple bullets (about 15) from a close range when he was leaving his office for an iftar party. Along with two of his Personal Security Officers Hamid Chaudhary and Mumtaz Awan, he was shifted to a hospital but they suffered multiple injuries in the firing and succumbed.

Aditya Rao, Producer at BloombergQuint expressed, “Shujaat Bukhari being shot down to death is not just an attack on a journalist, it is rather a warning to the entire fraternity. A warning that says there is no place for fearless and unbiased journalists in the country. The incident saddens me to an extreme level of disbelief in the system.”

“Journalism, as a stream in this nation, is near handicap in a way — with no freedom of speech and only mouthpiece channels, newspapers and websites across the country. The entire purpose of the existence of the journalists is defeated today,” he added.

Prior to working as the Editor of Rising Kashmir, he worked as the Jammu and Kashmir state bureau Chief of The Hindu national newspaper for 15 years. “Bukhari, who was in his 50s, received a volley of bullets shattering the window panes of his vehicle and leaving him and the two policemen in a pool of blood. The shooting comes a day ahead of Eid. He was a proponent of upholding human rights and is survived by parents, wife and two minor children, a girl and a boy,” as per Rising Kashmir report.

Saeed Naqvi, Columnist at Rising Kashmir mourned the loss saying, “He was like my younger brother, my guide and a close friend. It is sad and shocking. I condemn his killing. Journalists have to say the factual truth. It is now difficult to be a journalist. Compensation must be granted to the victim’s family but the government won’t do the same. The people in power are not encouraging ideal journalism in today’s time.”

The Twitter got flooded with condemnation soon after the news of Shujaat Bukhari’s killing unfurled. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti condemned the attack saying, “Shocked & deeply saddened by the sudden demise of Shujaat Bukhari. The scourge of terror has reared its ugly head on the eve of Eid. I strongly condemn this act of mindless violence & pray for his soul to rest in peace. My deepest condolences to his family.”  Political leaders irrespectively came forward on the social media in criticising the attack. But are these all we want to accomplish what Bukhari had dreamt of? Aren’t we missing out some really stringent, inflexible unforgiving message from the power holders to the propagandists of terrorism?

Shujaat Bukhari was worried about the ongoing violence in Jammu and Kashmir and in one of his recent articles published on May 12, he represented his anxiousness about the ‘societal sanction of violence’ in the valley. Observing the role of youth from the state in the growing barbarity in the state, he asked, “Who is pushing these youth to pay this price and why?” He asked for answers from the government and held them accountable for their failure in controlling ‘despondency and frustration’ and ruling the roost of the youth preventing them from being the ‘cannon fodder in this grind of violence’.

J&K BJP Vice President Bharat Bhushan stated, “It is unfortunate that Shujaat Bukhari was shot to death in spite of security allotted to him. He was known for his pro-Indian writing. The entire Kashmir has broken down with the incident. Few people in the valley are spoiling the name of the state and trying to spread violence. The government is trying to implement proper law and order and will take the security of journalists into consideration.”

“Is violence the only and final solution?” Bukhari had asked. In the same article mentioned above, he also criticised the Centre for their “bullet-to-bullet policy” after the government announced ceasefire a month back.

Journalist Shujaat Bukhari, who was a part of the informal peace talks on Kashmir with the Pakistani representatives held in Dubai last year, was under police protection after he escaped an assassination attempt in 2006.

The death of Shujaat Bukhari reminds us that shambolic political decisions are taking the terrorism-torn Kashmir to an irreparable tomorrow. Moreover, overtime India has become more of a threatening nation for the journalists. As per the reports of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), ‘at least 33 journalists have been murdered in direct retaliation for their work since 1992’. In CPJ’s recent Impunity Index, India ranked 12th worldwide as a country where journalists are killed and their murderers go unpunished.

 

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