Shujaat Bukhari killed: Journalist's writing reflected belief in political solution to Kashmir conflict

Kashmiri journalist Syed Shujaat Bukhari was shot dead right outside his office on Thursday. Uknown militants opened fire at his car when he was heading home. While Bukhari and a security officer died were declared brought dead, another security officer guarding the journalist succumbed to injuries later at Kashmir's SIMS Hospital.

A look into the last few writings of the Rising Kashmir, where he worked as the editor-in-chief, gives an idea of his stand over several issues — be it condemning the social sanctioning of youth turning to violence in the Valley, asking the State to re-think on its methods or urging the Kashmiri society to reflect on the growing violence in the Valley. Besides, that in one of the last tweets, Bukhari was actually defending his journalism, makes his last articles important to understand just what that might be that he was eager to defend.

 Shujaat Bukhari killed: Journalists writing reflected belief in political solution to Kashmir conflict

File image of Syed Shujaat Bukhari. Twitter@bukharishujaat

Describing how worrying the societal sanction for violence in Kashmir is becoming the new normal in the Valley, especially for the youth, and the State's response to it, Bukhari wrote, "They (Kashmiri youth) resist government attempts to take on the militants. When the army, the paramilitary forces, and the police cordon an area to search for a militant, it is a civilian who puts up resistance and, in the end, both the militant and the civilian dies... Who is pushing these youth to pay this price and why?

"It is the failure of the current set-up to control despondency and frustration. At the same time, the Kashmiri society should also reflect on why the youth, who are not holding guns, ultimately become cannon fodder in this grind of violence.

"Are there no alternatives? Or do we have to force ourselves to be content with the idea that when you throw a stone, stage a protest or pick up the gun, the response is same — the bullet?" he asked.

Though Bukhari championed the unilateral ceasefire that the Government of India announced at the start of the month of Ramadan (May) this year, he didn't resist from criticising New Delhi's for its "bullet-to-bullet, bullet-to-stone" policy. He believed in finding a political solution to the conflict, and once argued that even Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat has realised that "countering violence with more violence has not helped restore peace in Kashmir".

"If killing militants brings about the so-called normalcy, then it should have all ended by now. The reality is that the involvement of society, the consolidated anger against India and repeated calls for a political resolution are resounding with much force. Every time Kashmir reaches the brink, the usual response from the state is that it is Pakistan-sponsored terror. Even the mass uprising that ran for over six months in 2016 was 'credited' to Pakistan having 'patronised' mischief-mongers. What we miss all this time is the realisation that an entire generation is at 'war', he wrote on 8 April, a week after 13 militants, three soldiers and four civilians were killed during an operation.

"...Who will save our youth from this grind of violence that only takes their lives? The primary responsibility lies with New Delhi that must not push people to the wall and accept Jammu and Kashmir as a political reality," he wrote.

Bukhari, however, was a staunch opponent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's emphasis on "development" as the only solution to the Kashmir crisis. In an article in May, just days after Modi's visit to the Valley, the Rising Kashmir editor-in-chief wrote, "He (Modi) said the only solution to Kashmir’s problem is 'development, development, and development'. He is wrong given the history of the conflict and the resistance the people have shown since 1990 and before, besides the development that has taken place. If development alone were the answer, then Modi himself announced a mega package of Rs 80,000 crore on 7 November, 2015.... these sops have not diluted the political content of the resistance on the ground."

But despite his anti-establishment views on the Kashmir conflict, Bukhari didn't stop himself from criticising the communalisation of the Kathua rape case and the Valley.

"With the condemnation only coming from Muslim areas of Hindu-dominated Jammu division, and from the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, it is clear that the child’s rape and murder has become the perfect example of the communalisation of rape. Only few voices from Jammu have called for justice into the case without looking at it as a Hindu versus Muslim affair," he wrote.

Bukhari, however, blamed both BJP and Congres for the communalistaion of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. "The Congress perhaps sowed the seeds, which the BJP is now reaping, pushing its rival into oblivion," he wrote on 14 April.

In his last opinion piece, Bukhari highlights the rise of fake news, and the need to put brakes on it. While emphasising the need for Google and Facebook to take greater responsibility, Bukhari seemed to be content with the fact that unlike in the West, print is still alive in India, and likely to be around for much longer.

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Updated Date: Jun 15, 2018 10:52:16 IST