Shujaat Bukhari, a fiercely independent journalist with a courageous voice
Veteran journalist and ‘Rising Kashmir’ editor Shujaat Bukhari and his two personal security officers (PSOs) were shot dead outside the newspaper’s office in the heart of Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital today, police officials said.
The killing of Shujaat Bukhari, editor of Rising Kashmir, in the heart of Srinagar on the eve of Eid, is a huge loss for the state. The continuing tragedy of Kashmir has claimed its latest victim.
I have lost a personal friend in Shujaat, who I have known for most of the last two decades. The media fraternity has been deprived of a courageous journalist, fiercely independent and someone who could not be boxed in by the familiar orthodoxies that define the politics of Kashmir. And the Valley’s civil society will gravely miss one of its most robust voices.
I recall accompanying the then chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, to visit Shujaat in the ICU of the government hospital in Jammu about three years ago; he had been paralysed by uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension.
I thought he wouldn’t pull through. And yet his resilience was remarkable, he survived and scaled new heights as an editor and journalist as his views were sought the world over. His Facebook posts revealed his peripatetic ways: only last month he was at the Global Editors’ Summit in Lisbon.
Shujaat had been, for several years, chief of bureau of The Hindu and Frontline, and continued – even till recently – writing for the latter. But his skills had been initially honed by the veteran journalist Ved Bhasin and his beloved Kashmir Times. He founded the English daily Rising Kashmir and the sister publications, Bulund Kashmir (in Urdu) and Sangarmal (in Kashmiri).
For Shujaat, establishing his independence was not easy; his brother is a minister and senior leader of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. But it is a tribute to his ability to navigate through the minefield of Kashmir’s murky politics that his tweets were these days most retweeted by National Conference leaders, including Omar Abdullah.
Less known is the fact that Shujaat Bukhari, with a doctorate, was a literary and cultural activist. Shujaat was one of the leaders of the Adabi Markaz Kamraaz (literary forum of North Kashmir), which was one of the few vibrant civil society forums working for the rejuvenation of the Kashmiri language and culture.
Shujaat was also active on the Track II circuit, working closely with the London-based Conciliation Resources that brought interlocutors from India, Pakistan and both sides of the Line of Control to Dubai, Istanbul and other locations away from the din of the subcontinent.
At a time when chief minister Mehbooba Mufti is waging a battle for peace, Shujaat’s death is a tremendous blow. There are those who had their differences with Shujaat and with Rising Kashmir’s views, as there would be with a fiercely independent journalist. But, without a shred of doubt, today, Kashmir is infinitely poorer without him. The biggest tribute to him is to continue to fight this insane violence and those who perpetuate it.
(Amitabh Matto is Advisor to J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti and an International Relations professor)
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