Fiercely in­de­pen­dent, coura­geous voice

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Front Page - By Amitabh Mat­too

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.

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