Shujaat is dead, long live fearless journalism
The killing of veteran Kashmiri journalist Shujaat Bukhari has left many questions unanswered, raised questions on the scope of journalism in conflict regions like Kashmir, and on the senselessness of shooting the messenger. AJAZ RASHID writes about the Rising Kashmir editor’s killing and why fearless journalism would continue to prosper.
June 14, 2018, would be remembered as one of the darkest chapters of Kashmir journalism. On this day, unidentified gunmen brutally killed veteran Kashmiri journalist and Rising Kashmir Editor-in-Chief, Shujaat Bukhari in the Press Enclave in Srinagar.
Bukhari, a respected journalist among the mainstream and separatist groups alike, popular in Kashmir, India and Pakistan, and known worldwide was silenced with a deafening sound of gunfire in Srinagar’s City Centre – Lal Chowk two days ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr as he was leaving office to break his fast with family.
The senior journalist, who had been reporting and writing about Kashmir for the past three decades and was a votary of the resolution of the vexed Kashmir issue, was killed as the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan drew to a conclusion as did the unilateral ceasefire announced by New Delhi against the militants.
Bukhari’s killing evoked widespread condemnation with the pro-India political parties including the Congress, the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party, National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, the separatists Hurriyat Conference, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front and all other separatist groups as well as the militant organisations including the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba condemning the barbaric killing in strong words.
Before launching his own English daily, Rising Kashmir and its sister concerns, Kashmiri daily Sangarmaal, Urdu daily Buland Kashmir and Urdu weekly Kashmir Parcham, Bukhari was the bureau chief of The Hindu in Srinagar for nearly 15 years.
He had a deep love for Kashmiri language and remained President of Adbee Markaz Kamraz, the biggest and oldest cultural and literary organisation of the Valley.
Bukhari was also a staunch votary of human rights and would highlight rights violations carried in Kashmir at all the international forums and pushed for resolution of Kashmir issue through dialogue.
This is probably what did not go well with his assailants, Kashmir conflict being a source of livelihood for many actors on both sides.
His killing has left many questions unanswered, more so after the J&K Police wrapped up the case in a hurry without arresting anyone and by pointing everything at Pakistan and thus pushing things under the carpet when the executors are still roaming around freely under their very nose here in Kashmir.
Bukhari’s killing has left everyone in Kashmir in general, and Kashmir media fraternity in particular in wonderment with many confused whether they could afford to pursue the journalism of courage he pursued, whether that could reason things to the unreasonable.
What journalism Bukhari’s colleagues would continue to pursue remains to be seen but even if most of them would be cowed down, there will always be journalists look Bukhari who would challenge the status quo and raise voice against the oppression of expression.
Shujaat is dead, long live fearless journalism.
Shooting the messenger is not a way out. It has never worked. And it never will.
Journalists killed in Kashmir
- Lassa Kaul:On February 19, 1990, Lassa Kaul, director of the government-owned Doordarshan television station, was shot dead by militants in Bemina area of Srinagar. The killing prompted the station’s closure for a three-year period.
- P N Handoo:On March 1 1990, P N. Handoo, Assistant Director of Information was shot dead inside his office at Balgarden, Srinagar.
- Muhammad Shaban Wakil:On April 23, 1991, the murder of Al-Safa editor-in-chief Muhammad Shaban Wakil served to mute local journalists’ criticism of Kashmiri militants, whom many suspects killed him. According to reports, some gun-wielding men entered the office of Vakil and fired at him indiscriminately.
- Ali Muhammad Mahajan:September 29, 1992, a renowned calligrapher, Ali Muhammad Mahajan, working with Urdu newspapers Hamdard and the Daily Aftab, was killed by paramilitary forces along with his son, Aijaz.
- Syed Ghulam Nabi:October 16, 1992, Syed Ghulam Nabi, Joint Director Information, was kidnapped and held captive for four days. On October 20, his dead body found with torture marks.
- Muhammad Shafi Bhat: October 3, 1993 slaying of Radio Kashmir news reader Muhammad Shafi Bhat sparked a wave of resignations by his colleagues.
- Ghulam Mohammed Lone:August 29, 1994 murder of freelance journalist Ghulam Mohammed Lone, had a chilling effect on stringers working in outlying areas of the Kashmir Valley. He was killed by a group of masked gunmen who also fatally shot his seven-year-old son in their home in Kangan, Kashmir.
- Mushtaq Ali:On September 10, 1995, Mushtaq Ali, an Agence France-Presse and Asian News International photographer, opened a package at an office in Srinagar’s Press Enclave. The “parcel exploded, severing Ali’s left hand, disfiguring his face and severely injuring his right hand and abdomen”. He died three days later.
- Ghulam Rasool Sheikh:On April 10, 1996, Ghulam Rasool Sheikh, editor of the Urdu-language daily Rehnuma-e-Kashmir and the English-language weekly Saffron Times, was found dead floating in Kashmir’s Jhelum River. Family members alleged that Sheikh was abducted and then killed by a paramilitary group.
- Altaf Ahmed Faktoo:On January 1, 1997, an anchor for the state-owned Doordarshan television station in Srinagar, Altaf Ahmed Faktoo, was shot dead by militants.
- Saidan Shafi:On March 16, 1997, the same year a freelance journalist Saidan Shafi was shot dead along with his bodyguard in Srinagar. Shafi, a reporter for Doordarshan TV, the official Indian television network, for “Kashmir File,” a weekly news program, and “Eyewitness”, a five-minute nightly news capsule, was fatally shot in an ambush by two gunmen in Srinagar.
- Tariq Ahmad:On April 8, 1997, Tariq Ahmad, a private television producer was killed.
- Pradeep Bhatia:On August 10, 2000, a grenade attack at Residency Road in Srinagar brought a hive of journalists to cover the spot. Moments later a car parked in a lane exploded in which a Hindustan Times photojournalist, Pradeep Bhatia, was killed.
- Parvaz Muhammad Sultan: Editor of a local news agency, Parvaz Muhammad Sultan, was killed by unidentified gunmen in 2003. Sultan was the editor of an independent news-wire service, News and Feature Alliance (NAFA), based in Srinagar, was shot dead by an unidentified gunman.
- Abdul Majid Bhat:Senior reporter of region’s information department Abdul Majid Bhat was killed in a blast in Doda town, in Jammu, on May 9, 2004.
- Asiya Jeelani:Another scribe Asiya Jeelani was killed in a landmine blast in Kupwara on April 20, 2004. Jeelani was a freelance journalist who contributed to local newspapers and a human rights activist who worked with a human rights group, Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). The blast also killed the driver of the vehicle.
- Ashok Sodhi:A photojournalist and then chief cameraman of Daily Excelsior, Ashok Sodhi, was killed on May 11, 2008, in Samba district of Jammu. Sodhi was caught in crossfire close to India’s border with Pakistan.
- Javed Ahmad Mir:On 13th August 2008, Javed Ahmad Mir, 35, was shot dead while covering a demonstration near Bagh-e-Mehtab. According to the BBC, apart from being a cameraman, was also a textile worker, to help support his wife and three children. Reporters Without Borders urged the government to carry out a thorough investigation into the death of local TV cameraman.
- Shujaat Bukhari:On June 14, Rising Kashmir Editor Shujaat Bukhari was shot and killed outside his office in the Press Avenue in Srinagar. Unknown gunmen fired a volley of bullets on his car. Bukhari was shot multiple times in his head and abdomen.
Kashmir, India, Pak condemn Shujaat’s killing
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq
Deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic news of Shujaat Bukhari’s killing! Such inhumanity is unpardonable and condemned in the strongest terms! Proud son of the soil his death is a huge loss. Shujaat was an erudite intellectual a fearless journalist and above all a selfless …
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.
Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesman
Dr Mohammad Faisal
Pakistan strongly condemns the targeted killing of renowned Kashmiri journalist, Shujaat Bukhari and his guard in Srinagar, IaK today. Our heartfelt condolences and prayers are for their families. Violence must end; Perpetrators should be brought to justice.
Even in the last tweet, he put out he was defending himself, his colleagues & his profession. He died in the line of duty doing what he did best & loved doing – journalism. #ShujaatBukhari My last DM exchange with #ShujaatBukhari. I can’t believe the mulaqat we were going to fix will never take place now. Life is just too uncertain & often too unkind.
Most dangerous profession. Another journalist assassinated. Very sad to know about the target killing of @bukharishujaat in Srinagar we met few weeks back in Islamabad and we both addressed a seminar on Kashmir may Allah rest his soul in peace(Ameen)
The killing of @RisingKashmir editor, Shujaat Bukhari is an act of cowardice. It is an attempt to silence the saner voices of Kashmir. He was a courageous and fearless journalist. Extremely shocked & pained at his death. My thoughts and prayers are with his bereaved family.
Raza Ahmad Rumi
I am devastated. Friend and former colleague (contributor to @TFT_ ) @bukharishujaat has been reportedly killed in #Srinagar https://scroll.in/latest/882676/jammu-and-kashmir-suspected-militants-shoot-at-journalist-shujaat-bukhari-in-srinagar … I can’t imagine what his family are going through. What a shame. #journalistsunderattack #India
Spare me the symbolism. What all do I mourn today? Killing of a human being? A fellow Kashmiri? A dear friend? An accomplished journalist? An obedient son? A loving brother? A caring father? A cultural activist? An articulate voice? Brutality of killing a rozadar @ Iftaar?
Shujaat Bukhari and I were colleagues at The Hindu. He was a formidable reporter, and, as editor of Rising Kashmir, a powerful voice for the embattled media fraternity, a true voice of sanity and reason. No words of condemnation are enough for the scum who have assassinated him.
Unbelievable! Kashmiri editor Shujaat Bukhari has been killed. What madness. A terrible loss.
I’m anguished to hear about the killing of Shujaat Bukhari, editor of @RisingKashmir. He was a brave heart who fought fearlessly for justice and peace in Jammu & Kashmir. My condolences to his family. He will be missed.
Unbelievably tragic news… Shujaat Bukhari didn’t survive the assassination attempt. The huge, huge loss to his family… Words fail me. My prayers for his family, and loved ones. I didn’t know Shujaat in person but this has shocked and saddened me deeply.
Shocked to hear about d attack on d Editor-in-Chief of Rising Kashmir Shujaat Bukhari in Srinagar. Reprehensible n condemnable cowardly act of d terrorists
Shujaat Bukhari,Editor Rising Kashmir and associated with SAFMA, killed in Srinagar today. It is tragic and most condemnable. He was among the few who stood with the democratic cause of Kashmiris and peace in the region. We needed him m. Rest in peace my dear Shujaat. Sad
Editors Guild of India unequivocally condemns the assassination of Rising Kashmir Editor Shujaat Bukhari. This is a grave attack on press freedom and democratic voices. We will be issuing a more detailed statement soon. Heartbreaking the loss of Shujaat Bukhari, an incredibly brave editor & an invaluable voice of middle-ground moderation. This is a loss for all Kashmiri’s, India and the entire journalistic community
We’re deeply dismayed to hear about the killing of Shujaat Bukhari, editor of @RisingKashmir. He was a brave and outspoken voice for justice and equality in Jammu and Kashmir.
My friend @bukharishujaat was a rare voice of moderation in Kashmir who pandered to no extremes. May those who did this to him rot in hell. And may this be a moment for Kashmir to take note of the absolute insanity it is slipping into #ShujaatBukhari. There is no getting around it : @bukharishujaat has been assassinated for being an advocate for peace and reconciliation; for his refusal to give up hope; for his constant search for Kashmir’,s elusive middle ground. A deep professional and personal loss for me #ShujaatBukhari
Lord Nazir Ahmed
Indian administered Kashmir senior journalist and Rising Kashmir editor Syed Shujaat Bukhari and his PSO were shot dead and another critically injured outside his office in #Srinagar
Heard the terrible news about senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari. Enemies of humanity have silenced a voice of sanity in Kashmir. May God give courage to his family in this hour of grief.
Don’t you find it interesting that no one in the state is asking for an investigation into Mr Shujaat Bukhari’s assassination? That’s the state of politics in Kashmir. RIP Shujaat Sahab. Twitter fundamentalists; pause carefully the next time journalists talk of death threats and pause before you tar people as anti-nationals. Shame on you and Shame on those fulminating primetime hate mongers. and most of all I wish Hell to those who did this to # ShujaatBukhari.
Shujaat Bukhari, one of the very few sane voices on the issue of Kashmir has been assassinated. This is the time to reflect on the seeds of hatred being sown and realise the value of those who put their lives at risk to keep the truth alive. My deepest condolences.
It is harsh n crude joke.. plz don’t tell me Shujaat Bukhari is attacked.. why?..plz kill us once for all…
The assassination of #ShujaatBukhari is a brutal attack on freedom of the press. A cowardly and deplorable act of terror. Our fearless media is one of the greatest strength of our democracy and we are committed to provide a safe and conducive working environment to media persons.
Shujaat Bukhari was a voice of reason in Kashmir. Brilliant journalist who pandered to no extremes. He did his job honorably till his last breath & paid the price of being upright. Objectively reported human rights violations at the hands of Indian forces & extremists in Kashmir.
RIP Shujaat Bukhari, friend and colleague of many years. His killing is a cowardly act.
Arfa Khanum Sherwani
Shujaat Bukhari was just the kind of man Srinagar and Delhi both needed for each other.A bridge, a balanced journalist in these extremely polarised times. Can’t fathom who would want him dead? What does it actually say about the current political environment in Kashmir?
Speechless with grief at shocking, terrifying, tragic news from Srinagar. What peace can we ever hope for when brave voices of reason who call for dialogue are silenced so brutally? I will miss you deeply, my dear friend. May you rest in eternal peace…
Shujaat Bukhari was a journalist i never agreed with. When we met in 2014 during the Kashmir floods, or when we spoke over phone multiple times, we disagreed. Both of us were fierce in our views. The loss of a voice i always rang up to know the contrarian will be terribly missed.
Shocked by this horrendous assassination of my friend I have known for decades: Shujaat Bukhari, a journalist and crusader who relentlessly strove for peace & normalcy in J&K. The perpetrators must be urgently identified & punished. Shujaat was a voice of sanity, a true upholder of Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat & Jamhooriyat. It is a big loss for all of us struggling to set our house in order in J&K. Heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones.
Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari shot dead. The price you pay for saying the truth.
Terrible to hear about Shujaat Bukhari. He engaged, he agreed, he disagreed — but not once was he anything but polite. Condolences to his family. We are all poorer today.
Shujaat Bukhari joined @the_hindu in the ‘90s & lit up the paper’s link to the Kashmir crisis. He connected the Hurriyat leaders & many other key players to our editorial board, bringing home the full force of Kashmir ‘s despair. Thanks, Shujaat for your splendid contributions
Suddhan Sadaf Shareef
SHUJAT BUKHARI hs been killed by Indian Coward agencies in a false flag operation to counter & divert the attention frm @UN report on #Kashmir & malign our struggle with terrorism. #ShujaatBukhari #RIP #IndianTerrorism #KashmirBleeds #HumanRightsViolations
I cannot believe this. Horrible news. Such a kind, gentle, brave man. RIP.
A sane and balanced voice for peace is silenced. May God favour him, and have a place for him in Heaven. Shujaat Bukhari was a well known name in authentic journalism, especially for his writings on Kashmir and the India Pakistan conflict.
Dr Rita Pal
The man who tried his best to expose #India’s conduct in #Kashmir with his direct journalism has been shot dead.
2297 killed since 1990
According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) at least 2,297 journalists and media staff have been killed since 1990.
The International Federation of Journalists published its report on journalists and media staff killed since 1990. The report lists 2297 media fatalities due to violence in journalism, including 112 killed in 2015 alone. From double digits at the start of these publications, the figures reached three digits in eleven years, peaking to 155 killings of journalists and media staff in 2006, the deadliest year on record.
First, they came for
“First they came …” is a poem written by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). It is about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. Many variations and adaptations in the spirit of the original have been published in the English language. It deals with themes of persecution, guilt and responsibility.
The best-known versions of the speech are the poems that began circulating by the 1950s. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum quotes the following text as one of the many poetic versions of the speech.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
According to J&K Police, the conspiracy to kill veteran journalist Shujaat Bukhari was hatched in Pakistan and executed by 3 Lashkar-e-Toiba militants in here in Kashmir.
A fortnight after Rising Kashmir founding editor, Shujaat Bukhari was killed outside his office in the Press Enclave in the busy Lal Chowk, Jammu Kashmir Police revealed that a conspiracy to kill him had been hatched in Pakistan and executed by three Lashkar-e-Toiba militants in Kashmir who had been identified.
The blogger, who ran a slander campaign against Bukhari, had been identified as Shiekh Sajjad Gul alias Ahmad Khalid of HMT area of Srinagar, presently living in Pakistan.
“There was an online malicious campaign, which was intimidating at times. Five to six posts were on the public domain. We have tangible evidence that establishes that the online campaign was done from Pakistan. The evidence provided by service providers reveal that they are from Pakistan and were part of the LeT conspiracy,” Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, Swayam Prakash Pani said.
He said a blogger Sajad Gul was a LeT operative who was currently based in Pakistan, wherefrom he ran a hate campaign against Bukhari on www.kashmirfight.wordpress.com
“Besides, there were malicious and intimidating posts spread through the Facebook account, Kadwa Sach Kashmir and Twitter handle, Ahmad Khalid (ahmadkhalid@313) against Bukhari,” he said.
According to the IGP, Gul had gone to Pakistan in March 2017 on a fraudulent passport.
“As per our investigations, he was arrested by Delhi Police in 2003. He was also arrested by J&K Police in 2016 for his involvement in militancy,” Pani said.
He said J&K Police had gone for a lookout notice for his arrest.
He said Gul was one of the persons behind the creation of the blog and malicious content on it.
“We have strong evidence to establish that it was done by Gul,” he said.
According to sources, Gul was married to a militant’s sister from Srinagar before he fled to Pakistan.
Reports said he had pursued an MBA from a private institution in Bengaluru and trained as a laboratory technician before moving to Pakistan.
According to police sources, a group of three assailants had been waiting outside his office and indiscriminately fired at Bukhari and his guards when he had just sat in his private SUV and was leaving home to break the day-long fast.
The IGP said the three assailants belonged to Lashkar and identified them as Pakistan national Naveed Jhatt, Muzaffar Ahmad alias Talha of Sopat, Qazigund and Azad Ahmad Malik alias Dada of Arwani, Bijbehara.
Hours after Bukhari’s killing, J&K Police had released a CCTV grab of three suspects fleeing on a motorcycle.
One of them was wearing a mask, another a helmet while the face of one was covered by another suspect.
About the motive behind Bukhari’s killing, the IGP said details would be shared with media when charges are framed in the case.
“We will approach the court to obtain a non-bail able warrant against the wanted persons in the case,” he said.
The IGP said since Gul was based in Pakistan, Police would issue a lookout notice or seek issuance of Interpol Red Notice to get his custody.
Terming the case as important, he said the investigators would focus on the evidence that has been obtained so far.
“There will also be a situation where the transfer of evidence has to be done through legal mutual assistance treaty. It is a big case in which different places are involved,” Pani said.
The IGP said Police was still investigating the role of Zubair Qayoom of Saderabal, Srinagar, who was arrested by Police after he ran away with a pistol of one of Bukhari’s guards and two mobile phones of the victims from the crime scene.
Sources said investigators had not found anything substantial against Qayoom for his direct involvement in the assassination.
“He is said to be a victim of drug abuse,” they said.
However, he has provided consent to investigators for conducting of his narco-analysis to prove his innocence, they said.
Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Police headed by Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police central Kashmir, Vidhi Kumar Birdi, is probing Bukhari’s killing
Sources said revelations so far were based on approximately 30 percent technical evidence and 70 percent circumstantial evidence.
The statements of around 10 witnesses comprising both militants and civilians were also part of the Police investigation, they said.
Sources said the investigators scanned the CCTV footage to establish the trail and crime sequence.
They said the assassins had purportedly stayed in Srinagar for nearly a week and conducted a thorough reconnaissance before carrying out the brutal triple-assassination.
“The next level of investigation will focus to reveal how and who shared the information with the Pakistan-based blogger,” said a Police officer.