Shujaat Bukhari is the third journalist who has been killed at the Press Enclave over the past thirty years of an unmitigated turmoil in Kashmir. Two others were the AFP photographer Mushtaq Ali and the head of the Wire agency NAFA Parvaz Sultan.
Some other journalists who have lost their lives are the Alsafa editor Mohammad Shaban Vakil who was dragged out of his office and shot dead in 1991. Saidain Shafi, a stringer with the Doordarshan, was killed in 1997.
And between them, the killings show the fraught nature of the journalism in Kashmir. Not only do they capture for us the horror of the times we live in but also give us a sense of what Kashmir journalism has had to go through to get the story.
The assassination of Bukhari on Thursday has yet again brought home this chilling reality. Here was a journalist who was active on the scene for close to three decades and had become an influential Kashmiri voice in India and abroad getting killed for no apparent reason in broad day light along with his two personal security officers.
The condemnations have poured in from far and wide and across the ideological divide. Both United Jihad Council and the Lashkar-i-Toiba have condemned the killing. In fact, the UJC chief Syed Salahuddin has sought an international probe. Similarly, quoting his chief Mahmood Shah, Lashkar spokesman Dr Abdullah Gaznavi has suspected conspiracy in the assassination.
Similarly, condemnations have come from the mainstream and separatist political organizations. It is more or less a familiar scene that plays out after every high profile killing in Kashmir. And Bukhari’s is no different.
This begs the question, who killed Shujaat Bukhari. The government and militant groups have blamed each other. Militants are seeing the hand of the intelligence agencies and the government blames the militants. And in between these allegations and counter-allegations, one more precious life has been lost. What is more, in the absence of the whereabouts of the killers, it is the rumour and innuendo that fills up the space.
The killing of Bukhari has thus once again gone on to underline that the situation in Kashmir hardly fits into the idea of a simple moral world: a fact that was laid bare by the Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark in The Meadow, their best-selling investigative work on the 1995 Al Faran kidnapping. The book reveals the kidnapping as a perfidious play of the conflict in the state where sometimes the identities of the victims and the perpetrators fuse. They call it a Game, a beautiful game which in its heyday in the nineties had no boundaries.
“India and Pakistan fought each other in the Valley by manipulating the lives of others. Everything that happened here involved acts of ventriloquism, with traitors, proxies and informers deployed by both sides, and civilians becoming the casualties, the authors write. And among those civilians and journalists are the most vulnerable.
Game is on.
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