SANITY SILENCED

The brutal killing of journalist Shujaat Bukhari in Srinagar has evoked widespread grief and anger in India and across the world.

Having survived previous assassination attempts, Bukhari’s luck finally ran out when hewas shot dead by three unidentified assailants on a motorbike outside his office in the Press Enclave area of Srinagar on June 14. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the murder.

A reporter of many years’ standing and editor-in-chief of the English-language daily newspaper Rising Kashmir, Bukharialso served as president of Adbee Markaz Kamraz, a cultural and literary organisation in Kashmir. He played a key role in organising several Kashmir peace conferences and was part of the Track II diplomacy between India and Pakistan.India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh called the killing ‘an attempt to silence the saner voices of Kashmir’, and in the wake of this and other militant violence, which has escalated in recent months, India’s governing BJP has pulled out of the ruling coalition in Jammu and Kashmir.

Bukhari’s fellow journalists expressed great sadness at his death and what it signifies. The Indian Journalists’ Association (Europe) issued a statement strongly condemning the ‘heinous’ murder of a fellow journalist. ‘We deeply mourn his death and convey our heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends. Upholding the freedom of media is firmly enshrined in the IJA’s Constitution. Shujaat was brutally gunned down because he was performing his professional duties. In effect, it is a grave matter of human rights. We appeal to the United Nations, to the international community and journalists’ organisations anywhere in the world to kindly take note of this case of unspeakable terrorism against a journalist.’

Mahendra Ved, president of the Commonwealth Journalists Association,wrote that the CJA‘takes serious note of the assassination of senior journalist and editor, Shujaat Bukhari, in Srinagar… by assailants who have yet to claim credit for their dastardly act.Bukhari was a good human being and a fine, competent journalist, known for his liberal views. He often took stands in his writings that were not palatable to many, including those espousing terror… That the assassination came close to the end of the holy Ramadan month, on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, makes the act more reprehensible. It underscores the grim ground reality in the troubled Jammu and Kashmir [region] that daunts the people and the media that reports it. The CJA demands stringent action against the killers and dips its flag in tribute to Bukhari.’

For A.S. Dulat, former chief of India’s Research and Analyisis Wing, onetime advisor on Kashmir to the Prime Minister’s Office and a longtime friend of Bukhari, the devastating news of the assassination awaited him on his arrival in London. ‘Kashmiris everywhere, particularly his friends and those who knew him, have been badly shaken,’ said Dulat.‘Some say Kashmir is worse than in 1989-90 and will never be the same again.

Shujaat was a gem of a human being and a friend; possibly the brightest journalist in the valley with a great future.We had met at Istanbul about six weeks ago, from where he travelled to Pakistan. Despite travelling for more than a fortnight he came from Srinagar to Delhi for the launch of [Dulat’s book] The Spy Chronicles on May 23. As usual, he spoke fearlessly about his beloved valley which he saw sinking in the last couple of years. He was the most committed votary of dialogue as the only way out.

He had warned repeatedly of alienation, increased militancy and all-pervasive fear in which no one was safe.He had approached the Chief Minister only a few days ago for increased security. Yet who could have imagined that this gentle soul would become a target.Why?’

Asian Affairs joins these voices of sorrow and horror that, by calling for peace and dialogue in a troubled state, Shujaat Bukhari should have met this most violent end.

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