Nearly six months ago, on 14 June 2018, Kashmir’s prominent journalist and editor, Shujaat Bukhari, 50, was shot dead by unknown gunmen outside his office in the city center of Srinagar, Lal Chowk. It wasn’t the first killing of a journalist in conflict-torn Kashmir, but it sent shock waves across the region, including entire South Asia. Mr. Bukhari was not an ordinary journalist when he talked — people listened; everybody doesn’t have the same persona that he carried.
But the question is — who killed Shujaat Bukhari?
We have heard police talking of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), a militant outfit, killing him, and LeT cross-accusing Indian agencies as well. So, no one has been able to really put ahead of any significant evidence of who ordered the killing — that to be executed in a way leaving no margins to survive. Alongside him, two of his bodyguards lost their lives too. As the days crawled ahead, it turned out the incident shrank merely to — three more lives added to the ever-growing number of the dead in the Kashmir valley.
This year, nearly 600 people have been killed, making it the most violent year in the last decade. With scores of youth coming between raining bullets and the trapped militants, that only to help them escape — militancy grown too. Before Mr. Bukhari’s killing, in his writing, he was actively advocating ceasefire — a halt in the growing violence from both the sides, and he did it vehemently and rigorously.
What cost him over fifteen bullets — wish for peace, settlement to Kashmir issue? Or was it his personality of having command over issues?
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released its 2018 report on Wednesday adding Mr. Bukhari’s assassination in the long list of journalists killed across the world. The CPJ notes that at least “53 journalists were killed around the world between January 1 and December 14, 2018, of which at least 34 were singled out for murder.” On Mr. Bukhari, the report says that no evidence was provided by anyone about his killing.
So, who actually killed him?
In Kashmir, memories of bloodshed fade with more coffins to be shouldered and graves to be filled. The situation for media in Kashmir has, in recent times, not been free of threats or repercussions. After Mr. Bukhari’s assassination, Kashmir’s so-called intellectual circles, even the ones who used to hang around him, have only been quiet. No one talks of the issues, as such, anymore, as he did. The Kashmir’s political void has been filled by — chaos, noise, crowd, uncertainty, all the doubt and suspicion.
Maybe, we will never get the answers to these questions. But Mr. Bukhari was a man who was out there for — people, hope, peace, justice, and free speech; whether one agreed to him or not. The fact that the year 2018 has been most violent, is an answer in itself to why the people like Mr. Bukhari are shot dead.