Srinagar, Jun 14: Veteran journalist and ‘Rising Kashmir’ editor Shujaat Bukhari and his two personal security officers (PSOs) were shot dead by terrorists outside the newspaper’s office in the heart of Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital today, police officials said.
Fifty-three-year-old Bukhari, who had worked as the state correspondent for national daily ‘The Hindu’ for several years, was shot dead soon after he boarded his car from his office located at Press Enclave in the heart of the city centre — Lal Chowk.
Giving details, police said in a statement that terrorists this evening fired upon senior journalist and editor-in-chief of the daily, ‘Rising Kashmir’, Shujaat bukhari at Press Enclave.
“While Shujaat Bukhari was travelling in a car near Press Enclave, he was fired upon indiscriminately which resulted in instant death of Bhukari and a PSO who was with him. The other PSO who was shifted to the hospital in critical condition has succumbed to his injury,” the statement said.
“Preliminary investigation…indicates this as a terror attack. Police is investigating the case and condemn this gruesome terror act,” the statement said.
The unidentified militants, believed to be three in number, were waiting as it is believed that they had the knowledge about the time Bukhari was to leave office. They fired indiscriminately on the vehicle carrying him and fled on a motorcycle along with a weapon of a Personal Security Officer (PSO) Abdul Hamid, who was also killed on the spot.
Bukhari is survived by his wife and one son and a daughter.
Another PSO, identified as Hameed, and a civilian were injured in the attack. The policeman later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.
The journalist is the brother of Bashrat Ahmed Bukhari, a minister in the Mehbooba Mufti government.
An anguished Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti broke down while denouncing the “mindless” killing of Bukhari as she recalled her meeting with the renowned journalist a few days ago.
“What can I say. Only a few days ago he had come to meet me,” an emotional Mufti said, struggling to hold back her tears.
Several organisations of journalists also condemned the killing.
Bukhari is the fourth journalist to be killed by militants in the nearly three-decade-long violence in Kashmir. In 1991, the editor of ‘Alsafa’, Mohammed Shaban Vakil, was killed by militants of Hizbul Mujahideen.
Former BBC correspondent Yussuf Jameel escaped with injuries when a bomb exploded in his office in 1995, but ANI cameramen Mushtaq Ali lost his life in the incident.
Later on January 31, 2003, Parvez Mohammed Sultan, editor of NAFA, was shot dead by Hizbul Mujahideen at his Press Enclave office.
Hours before he was killed, Bukhari distinguishable by his over six-foot tall frame and husky voice was steadfastly defending his work on micro-blogging site Twitter when he was accused by some Delhi-based journalists of “biased” coverage.
“…In #Kashmir we have done Journalism with pride and will continue to highlight what happens on ground,” he had said in the tweet.
As the news of his cold-blooded killing spread, the social media reacted with surprise and disgust about the cowardly act as politicians, journalists and common people expressed their condolences and condemnation of the barbaric act.
Governor N N Vohra has conveyed shock and grief on the gruesome killing of Syed Shujaat Bukhari, Editor of “Rising Kashmir”, a leading Valley newspaper. Recalling Bukhari’s standing as a veteran journalist Governor described his murder as a big loss to the media fraternity.
In a message Governor has prayed for peace to the departed soul and strength to the bereaved family to bear this irreparable loss. Governor has called Basharat Ahmed Bukhari, Cabinet Minister and Shujaat’s brother, to convey his heartfelt sympathy.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said in a message that she was shocked and saddened by Bukhari’s “sudden demise”.
“The scourge of terror has reared its ugly head on the eve of Eid. I strongly condemn this act of mindless violence & pray for his soul to rest in peace. My deepest condolences to his family,” the chief minister said on Twitter.
Terrorism, she said, has hit a new low with Bukhari’s killing, “that too on the eve of Eid”.
“We must unite against forces seeking to undermine our attempts to restore peace. Justice will be done,” Mehbooba said.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad termed him a close friend and lauded his role during the floods of 2014. “In him we have lost a fearless journalist and a great social worker,” he said.
BJP national General Secretary Ram Madhav also termed the senior journalist’s killing a cowardly act by the terrorists.
In a tweet, he said, “Shocked to hear about d attack on d Editor-in-Chief of Rising Kashmir Shujaat Bukhari in Srinagar. Reprehensible n condemnable cowardly act of d terrorists (sic)”
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah said, “Shocked beyond words. May Shujaat find place in Jannat & May his loved ones find strength at this difficult time.”
Abdullah also posted a screenshot of his last conversation with Bukhari on Twitter.
Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party Prof Bhim Singh also condemned the attack on the fourth pillar terming it as unfortunate.
Prof Singh slammed the Centre for its alleged soft approach towards terrorists and stone peltres and added, “it is high time now. The killing of a seasoned journalist has made it clear that the situation in Kashmir is very grim and out of control.”
He however, also said that in his recent meeting with Shujaat last week, the deceased made certain disclosures with him on ongoing conspiracy in media fraternity.
The Press Club of Jammu has condemned the attack on Shujaat Bukhari, the Chief Editor of Rising Kashmir, who was shot dead outside his office in Srinagar by unidentified gunmen on Thursday evening.
The Managing Committee in an urgent meeting, held in the Club premises here, President Ashwani Kumar strongly condemned the attack on a senior Journalist Shujaat Bukhari.
“This is not the first case, in past as well, there have been cases of assault and attack on journalists while on duty and it is a direct attack on the fourth pillar of our democracy,” pointed out Ashwani Kumar and demanded that the state government must ensure safety of journalists.
He said that the terrorists eye on soft targets and the attack on the fourth pillar in highly condemnable.
“The 90s like situation has once again seems to be returning in the Kashmir valley when the journalists were used to be attacked and assassinated,” he rued.
Secretary General, Press Club of Jammu, Zorawar Singh Jamwal said the journalists are being made soft target by the militant outfits and anti-social elements in the militancy-hit state of Jammu and Kashmir. “I’m in complete shock after hearing about the attack on a senior journalist,” he said and demanded safety of journalists.
He however, also sought security for the journalist fraternity especially for those who are into field and putting their lives on risk while performing professional duties.
Shujaat was also an active member of Press Club of Jammu. He remained associated with national dailies The Hindu and The Indian Express also.
Besides others, those who attended the meeting included, Vice-President, PCJ, Abhimanyu Sharma, Treasurer, Dinesh Manhotra and members of the Managing Committee, Ajay Bachloo, Deepak Khajuria, Dinesh Mahajan, Nishikant Khajuria, Pawan Sharma, Surjeet Singh and Vishal Bharti.
Bukhari was shot multiple times outside his office in Press Avenue, one of the busiest areas in Srinagar. He was accompanied by his driver and Personal Security Officer. They have also been shot and were also taken to the hospital.
Bukhari was given police protection since an attack on him in 2000.
Bukhari was instrumental in organising several conferences for peace in the Kashmir Valley. He was also part of the Track II process with Pakistan.
Meanwhile hours before he fell to the bullets of unidentified gunmen, Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari had vigorously defended his work on Twitter when some Delhi-based journalists accused him of doing “biased” reportage on Kashmir, and had posted the UN report on alleged human rights violations in the Valley.
One of his last tweets read: “First-ever @UNHumanRights report on #Kashmir calls for #international inquiry into multiple violations”.
Bukhari, who had a distinguishable tall frame and husky voice, said in another tweet, “In #Kashmir we have done Journalism with pride and will continue to highlight what happens on ground.”
As the news of his cold-blooded killing spread, social media reacted with surprise and disgust about the cowardly act as politicians, journalists and common people expressed their condolences and condemnation at the barbaric act.
“The killing of @RisingKashmir editor, Shujaat Bukhari is an act of cowardice. It is an attempt to silence the saner voices of Kashmir. He was a courageous and fearless journalist. Extremely shocked & pained at his death. My thoughts and prayers are with his bereaved family,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh said.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi, too, expressed his “anguish” about the killing of the editor who was one of the most important voices of Kashmir.
“He was a brave heart who fought fearlessly for justice and peace in Jammu & Kashmir. My condolences to his family. He will be missed,” he said on Twitter.
The killing took place in heavily guarded Press Enclave near the Lal Chowk area in Srinagar when Bukhari, in his 50s, was going from his office there to attend a Iftar function.
“We’re deeply dismayed to hear about the killing of Shujaat Bukhari, editor of @RisingKashmir. He was a brave and outspoken voice for justice and equality in Jammu and Kashmir,” Amnesty India said in its message.
Director General Press Information Buerau Sitanshu Kar said, “Extremely saddened by the way the voice of #shujaatbukhari, one of the finest journalists of J&K, has been silenced. His voice of moderation will be missed by all.”
RJD leader and former deputy chief minister of Bihar Tejashwi Yadav wrote “shocked & saddened by the unfortunate news of @bukharishujaat ‘s death. Indeed darkest days for fearless & independent journalists in the country. Govts must ensure speedy investigation & punish the perpetrators. Where we are heading as a country?”
Former army commander in the area Lt Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain said, “Very pained to hear of the shooting of Shujat Bukhari, Editor of Rising Kashmir. Long time associate, over 20 years. Played a very important role in Kashmir. Regret to learn that he is no more. May his soul rest in peace. What will the trts/Separatists aim to achieve with this.”
While one of the personal security officers (PSO) guarding him was killed, another policeman and a civilian were injured, they added.
The condition of the two injured in the shooting, which comes a day ahead of Eid, is critical, they said.
It was not immediately clear how many gunmen attacked Bukhari, who earlier worked with The Hindu newspaper as its Kashmir correspondent. (With Agencies inputs)