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 put into his body. 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 summit that anyone can envy. He was more concerned to alleviate pain and sufferings of the people of Kashmir than attain personal comfort, and precisely because of that he devoted more time for the people Kashmir than for his family. However, his was not a smooth journey by any measure – he had 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 transformed him into a personality to emulate.
Shujaat Bukhari and I had our last conversation almost a week before he was murdered. 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 academics, traders, and some perplexed politicians who have no clear roadmap for the state. Also, I met young people who are victims of the corruption and corrupt system. Based on that journey, I published a comprehensive report in our newspaper, Chauthi Duniya. I was mulling over how to take that report to the Kashmiri readers. At that time Shujaat Bukhari was on a foreign trip to participate in international conferences depicting true picture of Kashmir. In our brief conversation on phone he told me to send the piece to Rising Kashmir and promised to serialize it. As per instruction I sent the piece which was published in parts. On the very day that the second part was published, Shujaat Bukhari was attacked and murdered. One of the last tweets 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.
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 tapped my shoulder from behind. When I turned I found Shukat Bukhari along with a lady, whom he later introduced as his wife. As usual Shujaat Bukhari hugged me warmly. 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 visited south Kashmir, Shujaat bhai was on a foreign trip.
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. His response used to be: “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 my letter. I can recall vividly that Pakistani newspapers presented my letter as evidence to the world body 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.
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, who wanted to stop his words from reaching the people. Shujaat Bhuari will always remain a leading light for all prudent people and for journalists who never compromise on the truth.