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Who killed Shujaat Bukhari and why?

June 15, 2018 18:27 IST

'Bukhari's case falls into that rare category where the precise determination of the killer as well as the motive can only be guessed vaguely, not determined with certainty,' says Mohammad Sayeed Malik, the distinguished doyen of the Kashmiri media.

Shujaat Bukhari at the Global Editors Summit in Lisbon, May 31, 2018.

IMAGE: Shujaat Bukhari posted this picture of himself at the Global Editors Summit in Lisbon on his Twitter feed on May 31, 2018, a fortnight before he was murdered in Srinagar.

Who killed Shujaat Bukhari and why?

Not that Kashmir and Kashmiris are alien to killings.

Over the past about three decades Kashmiris have developed sufficient sense and acquired sufficient 'experience' to make their own intelligent guess about both, the hand behind the trigger and the motive of its dastardly act.

In nine out of ten cases, their instinctive guess is right though they rarely risk sharing it publicly.

Bukhari's case falls into that rare category where the precise determination of the killer as well as the motive can only be guessed vaguely, not determined with certainty.

To an extent, it bears similarity with the mysterious killing of Mirwaiz Molvi Farooq and Abdul Ghani Lone.

Both are generally known to have been shot by militants and yet, strangely, both lie buried in the Shaheed Mazar which is exclusively reserved for those fighting for 'liberation' of Kashmir (militants).

 

As I joined the thousands who turned out at Bukhari's funeral at Kreeri, his ancestral North Kashmir village, about 40 kilometres from Srinagar, in pouring rain, I found many asking this question; 'Who killed him and why?'

Neither Bukhari nor his group of publications is known to have written anything against the 'liberation movement' or its proponents.

If anything, they always appeared to be sympathetic to their cause. So why would militants think of harming him?

But then armed militants in the past have struck twice in the same area, Press Enclave.

One victim couldn't make it, the other was lucky to survive after being shot in the neck.

And as the unofficial account goes, a group of three militants were lying in wait and struck as Bukhari emerged from his first floor office and got into his car with two armed police escorts.

Bukhari had no chance to pull through. It seemed to be not only a carefully timed action, but also executed with deadly accuracy.

Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq and Abdul Ghani lone, assassinated respectively in 1990 and 2002, were also gunned down in a similar manner. Death was instantaneous.

And here ends the similarity between these two cases.

Unlike Lone and Mirwaiz, Bukhari was not in politics nor were his publications in any way antagonistic to the 'cause' -- militancy.

He published an English daily, Rising Kashmir; an Urdu daily, Buland Kashmir; and a Kashmiri journal, Sangarmal.

By and large, his English daily was doing well and coming up content-wise. Bukhari spent most of his time in looking after his stable.

What, however, attracted unwanted attention towards his person, were his frequent interaction with various interest groups -- some of them based in Europe and America.

Retrospectively, one could say that he could have avoided 'over-exposing' himself as he could not be unaware of its risk in a highly sensitive place like Kashmir.

The easiest thing one could attract under the prevailing circumstances, in troubled Kashmir, is suspicion by over-exposing oneself.

Perhaps it never struck him. Otherwise, he may have taken due precaution, knowing that being in public life in his home town was like walking on a razor's edge.

All sorts of meaning was sought to be attached to his recent visits to Pakistan along with some local journalists and subsequent trips to the US, Turkey and Dubai, though these visits were duly reported and commented upon in his publications. Some of these inimical comments emanated from across the LoC.

Significantly, nobody ever wrote about it. But the gossip market was full of all sorts of fantasies. And in typical Kashmir culture, gossip and rumour have a habit of turning into 'news'.

To his ill luck, Bukhari remained unaware of this gathering foul atmosphere or he was simply careless.

As a person, Bukhari was head and shoulders above most of his contemporaries: Friendly, warm and courteous. I had closely interacted with him right from the time of his baptism in Ved Bhasin's Kashmir Times.

Our personal relationship remained unaffected after he quit the Kashmir Times and joined The Hindu.

After leaving The Hindu, Bukhari floated his own group of publications and in a short time overtook many of his contemporaries.

Bukhari's deep interest in the art and literature of Kashmir found expression in his publications. He made it a point to take time out and float cultural forums across North Kashmir. He was well respected in literary and cultural circles.

Shujaat Bukhari went too early.

He had the potential to make a deeper mark than his shortened life allowed him to achieve. He was quite rational in debate, but stood his ground while arguing with others.

Mohammad Sayeed Malik