It’s been a month that the lone voice has been buried in the valley after the funeral ceremony of Senior Journalist Shujaat Bukhari, Editor of Rising Kashmir, which took place on June 15. Though there is an unavowed fear among journalists, courageous journalism and reportage continue to sustain in the valley.
“Hum Kashmir mein Zabaan par chalte hain (In Kashmir, we work and live by the word),” were Bukhari’s exact words when I had a telephonic conversation with him in the month of May. When inquired about Journalism in Kashmir, Bukhari told me, “More than a confirmation via email or message, I believe in my word and if I have given my word to anyone then I will stick to it.”
A month ago on the fateful day of June 14, Shujaat Bukhari, 50, the Editor-in-chief of Rising Kashmir, one of the leading newspapers based in Srinagar was shot dead outside his office by unidentified gunmen. Bukhari was heading for an Iftiyar Party when he was attacked and showered with bullets by three assassins on a bike. By the time people nearby rushed towards him, Bukhari was lying collapsed on the back seat of his bullet-holed SUV with blood splattered all around.
Bukhari had briefed me about the nature of Journalism in Kashmir, giving me a thorough check of reality regarding the on-ground situation but at the same time he was encouraging and supportive. I remember him telling me, “You can only know and understand Kashmir when you live here, walk on the streets of the valley and interact with the local people.”
It’s been a month, investigation and inquiry is underway along with speculations, opinions, rumours and assumptions leading to varied conclusions. But journalists in the valley continue their job of reporting news daily. Zishan Amiri, a former journalist of Free Press Journal, who is now working in Kashmir, says, “There is a subtle fear instilled among us but we are fine and we are doing our job. I remember I was planning to meet and interview Shujaat Saheb and I had bought new shoes for the meeting out of respect but my dream has been short lived.”
Some dreams of Bukhari have been left unfulfilled. I vividly recall him saying that he wanted to expand, explore and enhance the online edition of his newspaper. He wanted to improvise the website of Rising Kashmir as he believed that digital media is the new way forward through which he could reach a larger audience. A fearless soul who worked for the last 30 years reporting every event of the valley, Bukhari will be remembered for his zeal, dedication and cult figure.