Shujaat Bukhari, a journalist
The death of Shujaat Bukhari in a terrorist attack at close range in Srinagar has taken away a journalist who held bold and independent opinions on the conflict in Kashmir and how it should be resolved.
Timing of murder
In the choice of target and the timing of the murder, the attack sends out a chilling message: that on the eve of Id-ul-Fitr and in the closing days of the government’s Ramzan ceasefire against militants, there are forces determined to gut the emerging consensus for extending the cease-ops and preparing the ground for dialogue.
What were Bukhari views?
Bukhari, given the credibility he had painstakingly built with reportage that conveyed the complex reality of life in the Valley, was a prominent advocate of the ceasefire and the need to extend it. Whichever terrorist group chose to kill him would have been aware of the consequences of his death.
What were the other instances in this week?
This has been a dark week in Jammu and Kashmir. Two security personnel with Bukhari were killed in the attack in Srinagar’s Press Colony. This week itself, the body of Aurangzeb, a jawan with the 44 Rashtriya Rifles who had been kidnapped while on his way home for the Id holiday, was found in Pulwama district riddled with bullets. In Bandipora, two militants and an Army jawan were killed. Days earlier, terrorists killed two policemen in Pulwama.
These incidents prevent peace
It is easy to spot the insistence to pull Kashmir back into the cycle of violence that was sought to be broken by the ceasefire. It is a challenge that the governments at the Centre and the State, as well as the security forces, would have been prepared for, and they must not allow these provocations to dim the case for a more humane outreach. J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti must not be rendered a lonely voice for truce and dialogue.
Bukhari’s killing highlights the dangers that reporters and editors face in the country — his death draws a direct line to the attacks on countless journalists, including the murders last year of Gauri Lankesh in Karnataka and Santanu Bhowmik in Tripura. Bukhari himself has been abducted before, in 2006. He survived that ordeal, but had to work thereafter with security cover, something no reporter would envy. That his guards died with him on Thursday underlines the vulnerability of both those who are guarded and those who guard.
It also underscores the irreplaceable role of the journalist in Kashmir, where daily lives are negotiated amid conflicting narratives, ideologies and affinities. To reconcile these, the reporter needs to have in his tool kit an open heart, the persistence to tease out stories and connect all dots, no matter how they may disturb nationalist or separatist sentiments. Without information, reconciliation is impossible. Over the decades, Bukhari enlightened readers even as he mentored journalists as the editor and founder of Rising Kashmir,and earlier as The Hindu’s correspondent.
(Adapted from The Hindu