Shujaat Bukhari: An epitome of courage and objectivity

By Santosh Bhartiya

We remember a deceased person through the words he had spoken or the works he had left behind. Shujaat Bukhari is no more with us. He succumbed to the hail of bullets that were pumped in to his body. Now whether the fingers that pulled the triggers and the person (s) who ordered to do so were one and the same will only be cleared after the investigation, but the truth is that the ruthless hand of destiny has snatched Shujaat bhai from us.

Shujaat Bukhari’s editorials, articles and the speeches (which he delivered across the world) speak for him and elevate him to such a height that anyone can envy. He was more concerned to alleviate pain and sufferings of the people of Kashmir than to attain personal comfort, and precisely because of that he devoted more time for the people Kashmir than for his own family. However, his was not a smooth journey by any measure; he has to travel many bumpy and dangerous roads and face many roadblocks. He faced people’s rage as well as two serious attempts on his life, but such threats and attacks never deterred him from what he stood for, and that is exactly what transform him into a personality to emulate.

Shujaat Bukhari and I had our last conversation almost a week before he was martyred. The pretext was my latest piece on Kashmir. Recently, I was in Kashmir to interact with students of south Kashmir. During the trip I interacted with students of a degree colleges and a higher secondary school and also chanced upon meeting intellectuals, merchants, and some perplexed politicians who have no clear roadmap for the state. Also, I met young people who became victims of the corruption and corrupt system. Based on that journey I published a comprehensive report in our newspaper, Chauthi Duniya. It occurred to me as to how to take that report to the Kashmiri readers. At that time Shujaat Bukhari was on a foreign trip to participate in some international conferences to depict true picture of Kashmir. In our brief conversation on phone he told me to send the piece to Rising Kashmir, and promise to serialize it. As per instruction I sent the piece to Danish sahib who started publishing it in serialized manner. On the very day that the second part was published, Shujaat Bukhari was attacked and martyred. One of the last twits of that fateful day was related to my piece, the other being related to the UN Human Rights report on Kashmir. The next day his janaza was performed and on the following day, the last part of my article was published in his newspaper. He might have instructed that there was no need to keep such a gap.

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As long as I live, one incident related to Jashn-e-Rekhta will keep bobbing up into my mind. Jashn-e-Rekha is an important festival for Urdu-loving people of Delhi, which attracts people not only from India but from across the world. During the latest edition of the festival, someone tap my shoulder from behind. When I turned I found Shukat Bukhari along with a beautiful lady, whom he later introduced as his wife. As usual Shujaat Bukhari hugged me warmly. And when I protest his coming to Delhi and not informing me, he introduced me to his wife. In the meantime she got a call on her phone, and we stepped a few steps aside and talked on the situation of Kashmir. He asked me to visit Kashmir soon, as according to him three months gap is a huge gap. I promised him that I will soon come to Srinagar. But unfortunately when I went on the trip of south Kashmir, Shujaat Bhai was on a foreign trip and upon his return he was forced on a journey from which no one returns.

He was a journalist who not only used to motivate people, but also purged many minds of misconceptions. Whenever we got a chance to talk we would plan to go to different parts of India and talk about Kashmir. There were many dangers in doing that, and I made him aware of those dangers but his response was, “What difference does it make? We are not living in a very happy situation. One can find such dangers everywhere. There is no dearth of people who due to misinformation take extreme views.” These things will never fade away from my mind.

We had an important meeting on the sideline of a seminar on Kashmir at India International Center in New Delhi. Before that I, along with Abhay Dubey and Ashok Wankhede, went to Kashmir in 2016 when there was lot of tension on streets – young men were up in arms against the Security Forces. After our return, I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister. That letter triggered a stir across the world, which was largely due to Shujaat Bukhari. The letter first appeared in Chauthi Duniya, and then in Rising Kashmir. Shujaat Bukhari made my letter to the Prime Minister viral across the world. Many newspapers reprinted that letter. Indeed, Shujaat Bukhari was duty-bound to convey to the world the pain Kashmiri youth, women and men were going through.

In the above-mentioned seminar he told the audience that to understand the situation of Kashmir it is suffice to read Santosh Bharati’s letter to the Prime Minister, because there is nothing left to understand after that. I can recall vividly that Pakistani newspapers presented my letter as evidence to the world against India. I told Shujaat Bukhari that I had not written the letter with intension to be used by Pakistan as a weapon against India. He replied, “Write another letter immediately and clear the air.” I responded to his advice saying, “This is a question of our country. Pakistan should look after its own people and worry about its own problems. We are more than enough to think about our country and question our government and explain our points. Pakistan is not justified to use the letter to prove its points.” After that I received calls from several Pakistani television channels and I acquainted them with my point of views and they too strongly supported my stand. For this, I thank the journalist community of Pakistan.

Today, when Shujaat Bukhari is not among us, his smiling face, his words, his writings and his fearless demeanor will always inspire us as journalists to remain objective and upright against all kinds of threats and intimidation. Shujaat Bukhari’s killing is perhaps a big defeat to those forces who wanted to shut his voice or who wanted to stop his words from reaching the people. Shujaat Bhuari will always remain a leading light for all thinking people and intellectuals, for Kashmir and India, and for journalists who never compromise the truth.

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