Written by : Murtaza Shibli
Shujaat Bukhari was one of the very few Kashmiri journalists who lived under a tight and imposing police security; at least two armed guards protected him round the clock, in addition to a comprehensive security cover for his newspaper office and residence. Hitherto unknown assailants – news reports suggest there were three or four of them – pumped dozens of bullets into him near the famous Lal Chowk, in the heart of the city and one of the secure localities in Srinagar that is filled with a large presence of security personnel. In such a fortified milieu, it is bizarre as well as scary that he was targeted from close range with an AK-47 assault rifle. He received more than 40 bullets and died within minutes of the attack; a photograph showing his facedown body curled inside his large four wheel drive will haunt Kashmiri scribes for a long time.
The ferocity of the attack, which also killed his two security guards and severely injured another, clearly demonstrates that the intention of his attackers was to mete out a sure and brutal death to the senior journalist. The operation looked more like a professional James Bond style assassination rather than the handiwork of Kashmiri militants – a ragtag lot of angry youth with no arms training – who are motivated by their anger and frustration at the continued dance of death provoked by the Indian rule and its deliberately enacted misdemeanours. The murder, aside from being widely seen as an assault on the press freedom, is a severe blow for the entrepreneurship of local Kashmiri journalism. As the owner of a news conglomerate – a daily newspaper each in English, Urdu, and Kashmiri – Bukhari displayed an extraordinary understanding of the market and great business acumen. Although his flagship newspaper, ‘Rising Kashmir’, continued to struggle for want of readership which remained minuscule as compared to the leading daily ‘Greater Kashmir’ or even the late entrant ‘Kashmir Reader’, it was a great success in commercial terms. According to data from the Jammu and Kashmir Information Department (JKID), ‘Rising Kashmir’ was the second highest recipient of government advertisements next only to ‘Greater Kashmir’.
The difference between the readerships of the two newspapers was in tens of thousands; according to an informal survey conducted by the JKID last year, the daily circulation of ‘Rising Kashmir’ was modestly placed at fewer than 1500 copies as compared to more than 60,000 for ‘Greater Kashmir’. Regardless, ‘Rising Kashmir’ remained extremely influential within official circles – both military and civilian, a testimony to Bukhari’s personal charisma and astute business sense. As a journalist, his forte remained his ability to network and master the networks. He would effortlessly mingle with competing actors in India and Pakistan, and within Jammu and Kashmir – from the unionists to pro-freedom separatists and from Indian Army officials to peace activists. Perhaps, that is why his demise is being felt across the board.
But his death is a much bigger blow for the Indian government’s efforts to bolster the new movement towards reconciliation and accommodation with the pro-freedom separatists – in Kashmir and across the border in Pakistan. More than his journalism, Bukhari was very active in Track II diplomacy. To my knowledge, he was the only Kashmiri Muslim being allowed by the Government of India to freely move between the two sides and pursue people and institutions in the quest for attaining long-term accommodation with Kashmiris on behalf of the Indian state. Bukhari was able to make deep inroads in Pakistan, amassing an impressive number of public intellectuals and policymakers as his friends. This might have irked his opponents, at home and abroad, but this does not explain the motivations behind his murder. I have known Bukhari since the late 1980s when we started journalism almost around the same time while he was still working as a clerk at the Accountant General’s Office in Srinagar. Although he was a few years senior, we enjoyed a warm relationship and even shared a flat in Srinagar at one point. Our association dwindled over the years as we changed trajectories and developed our own distinct ways of thinking. After more than a decade, we resumed contact in early 2011 when we both attended a Kashmir conference in Muzaffarabad in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Later, we would meet again at a dinner at the Punjab University, Lahore, in 2015. Hosted by a very close friend, vice chancellor of the university at the time, Mujahid Kamran, we interacted briefly as everyone else was trying to grab his attention and engage him in conversation. Last month, we narrowly missed each other, again in Lahore, as he was coming back from a high-profile conference on Kashmir, held in Islamabad and sponsored by the British NGO, Conciliation Resources. Bukhari’s murder in the heart of the city and in broad daylight is a crude reminder, yet again, that fortifying locations and involving military personnel to regulate men and movement is not anything equivalent to peace. That a senior journalist who benefited from stringent official protection could still fall to the bullets shows that security cannot be entirely predicated on the deployment of security personnel. Such a lazy countenance has long been discredited in Kashmir, a prospect trashed by none other than the Indian army chief himself. In a newspaper interview last month, General Bipin Rawat spoke candidly about the limitations of military power in solving the crisis in Kashmir, and emphasised the need for dialogue and political resolution. Aside from the customary condolences that have been pouring from all sides and directions, it is important that the murderers of Bukhari are unmasked and their motivations unearthed. That could bring some consolation to the place that is blighted by wanton violence from all sides.
Srinagar, June 27 (Kashmir Voice): In occupied Kashmir, senior APHC leader and the Chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Jammu and Kashmir, Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai has expressed concern over the deteriorating health of Kashmiri detainees languishing in different jails in of the territory and India. According to media sources, Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai in a statement in Srinagar condemned the frequent raids and crackdowns carried out by the Indian police and army in every nook and corner of the occupied territory to arrest innocent youth. He said that the Kashmiri detainees were neither habitual criminals nor terrorists but they were arrested to victimize them for seeking their inalienable right to self-determination. Instead of paying heed to their genuine demands and resolve the political and humanitarian dispute over Jammu and Kashmir, India is using arrests and detentions as a powerful weapon to suppress the voice for freedom, he added. The APHC leader deplored that after the expiry of one draconian law, Public Safety Act, the detainees were implicated in another fake case with the only aim of prolonging their detention. He demanded immediate release of all illegally detained Kashmiris including Hurriyat leaders and activists Shabbir Ahmed Shah, Masarrat Aalam Butt, Aasiya Andrabi, Muhammad Yousuf Falahi, Dr Muhammad Qasim Fakhtoo, Dr Muhammad Shafi Shariati, Dr Ghulam Muhammad Butt, Ghulam Qadir Butt, Altaf Ahmed Shah, Ayaz Akbar, Pir Saifullah, Merajuddin Kalwal, Nayeem Ahmed Khan, Shahidul Islam, Zahoor Ahmed Watali, Shahid Yousuf, Farooq Ahmed Dar, Muhammad Yousuf Mir, Fehmeeda Sofi, Nahida Nasreen, Nazir Ahmed Khawaja, Muhammad Rajab Butt, Javed Ahmed Flay, Muhammad Latif Dar, Muhammad Hussain Wagay, Zafarul Islam, Mashooq Ahmed Butt, Imtiaz Ahmed Mir, Abid Nabi Kachro, Pervez Ahmed Najar, Farooq Ahmed Najar, Showkat Ahmed Mir, Sajjad Ahmed Nao, Muhammad Asadullahy Parray, Omar Yousuf Khan, Sajjad Ahmed Baig, Manzoor Ahmed Najar, Basharat Mir, Ashiq Hussain Butt, Muhammad Yasin Tantray, Asif Gul, Sohail Ahmed Shaikh, Waseem Meraj, Farooq Ahmed Mir, Showkat Ahmed Kabbo, Tajamul-ul-Islam, Tameezuddin Shah, Shakeel Ahmed Yattoo, Ghulam Hassan Shah, Nazir Ahmed Mantoo, Nisar Ahmed Najar, Shabbir Ahmed Mir, Sajjad Ahmed Butt, Mir Hafeezullah, Muhammad Subhan Wani, Abdul Majeed Lone, Feroz Ahmed Butt, Pervez Ahmed Mir, Aijaz Ahmed Behroo, Manzoor Ahmed War, Ghulam Muhammad Tantray, Abdul Ghani Butt, Hakeemur Rehman, Ghulam Muhammad Tantray, Amir Hamza Shah, Imtiaz Ahmed Mir, Nasir Ahmed Ganai, Muhammad Amin Ahangar, Muhammad Amin Parray, Shabbir Ahmed Natsoo, Manzoor Ahmed Najar and Mushtaq Ahmed Ganai. KASHMIR VOICE
London, June 27 (Kashmir Voice): India is world’s most dangerous country for women due to the high risk of sexual violence and being forced into slave labour, according to a poll of global experts released in London. According to media sources, war-torn Afghanistan and Syria ranked second and third in the Thomson Reuters Foundation survey of about 550 experts on women’s issues. The only Western nation in the top 10 was the United States, which ranked joint third when respondents were asked where women were most at risk of sexual violence, harassment and being coerced into sex. Experts said India moving to the top of poll showed that not enough was being done to tackle the danger women faced, more than five years after the rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi made prevention of violence against women a national priority. “India has shown utter disregard and disrespect for women … rape, marital rapes, sexual assault and harassment, female infanticide has gone unabated,” said Manjunath Gangadhara, an official at the Karnataka state government. Government data shows reported cases of crime against women rose by 83 percent between 2007 and 2016, when there were four cases of rape reported every hour. The survey asked respondents which five of the 193 United Nations member states they thought were most dangerous for women and which country was worst in terms of healthcare, economic resources, cultural or traditional practices, sexual violence and harassment, non-sexual violence and human trafficking. Respondents also ranked India the most dangerous country for women in terms of human trafficking, including sex slavery and domestic servitude, and for customary practices such as forced marriage and female infanticide. KASHMIR VOICE