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Bukhari spoke truth to power

The government has its task cut out. It has to build an environment of peace. At the same time, it must not lower its guard, step up security and bring Bukhari’s killers to justice. Otherwise, Kashmir’s tragedy will continue.

editorials Updated: Jun 15, 2018 20:33 IST
People carry the body of Syed Shujaat Bukhari, the editor of Rising Kashmir, who was killed outside his office in Srinagar, June 14, 2018(REUTERS)

For three decades now, Kashmir has experienced deep grief. Its residents have lived with terror attacks, targeted killings, disappearances, militarisation, curfews, and almost continuous disruptions to their livelihood. But even in this grim landscape, the killing of Shujaat Bukhari -- a well-known Kashmir editor and commentator -- and two security personnel guarding him in Srinagar has numbed both the state and the rest of the country.

Bukhari was an important Kashmiri voice. He condemned the violence of terrorism and critiqued the Indian state for violations committed by it. He engaged, like journalists do, with diverse viewpoints within the Kashmiri political spectrum. He was a part of the Track II peace initiative that seeks a dialogue between India and Pakistan and a sustained conversation between the Indian government and Kashmiri representatives. He and the two security personnel with him were killed by three men on a motorcycle in a drive-by shooting just as he was leaving his office on Thursday evening for Iftar. The killing sparked outrage across the board -- from home minister Rajnath Singh to Congress president Rahul Gandhi in Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and opposition leader Omar Abdullah to the separatist leadership in Srinagar, everyone condemned it. Even Pakistan was forced to condemn the killing.

But there is a larger message in Bukhari’s killing. For one, it highlights the deep vulnerability of journalists -- editors, reporters, photo journalists alike -- in conflict regions such as Kashmir. Since 1990, 19 journalists have been killed in the state for merely doing their job, speaking truth to power on all sides and bringing real stories and photographs to readers. Two, the killing speaks of the worrying security environment in the state. No formal investigation has taken place, but the home minister and chief minister Mehbooba have said that terrorists were responsible. Bukhari was killed on the day the body of an army jawan, who had been abducted by terrorists earlier, was found. And three, the fact that the killing happened almost on the eve of Eid, right before a final decision is to be taken on whether the Ramzan cessation of operations should be extended, indicates that there is a political subtext. The government has its task cut out. It has to build an environment of peace. At the same time, it must not lower its guard; it should step up security and bring Bukhari’s killers to justice. Otherwise, Kashmir’s tragedy will continue.

First Published: Jun 15, 2018 20:25 IST