It has been exactly one year since Shujaat Bukhari, one of the most prominent faces of media from Kashmir valley was brutally murdered along with his bodyguards in Srinagar’s fortified press colony on the eve of Eid. Shujaat Sahab’s murder was Kashmir valley’s most sensational and daring assassination since Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq and Abdul Ghani Lone were killed in 1990 and 2002 respectively. Such was the charisma, influence and profile of Shujaat Sahab, that his assassination not only shook the media fraternity, but his murder also created tremors in the political corridors of both Srinagar and Delhi – the collapse of BJP – PDP government soon followed.
But how was the man Shujaat Bukhari? Was journalism, the only facet of Shujaat Sahab’s versatile personality? And most importantly, what has Kashmir lost in Shujaat Bukhari’s not being present today?
There are various ways in which one can remember Shujaat Sahab. He was an amalgamation of several roles – a journalist, a political analyst, a linguist, a poet, a writer, a promotor of culture, an environmentalist, a social activist, a human right activist and most importantly a peace seeker, all molded in one. But if there was one theme that was common in all these roles that he undertook, it was his love and passion for Kashmir, Kashmiri language, Kashmiri culture, Kashmiri music, Kashmiri poetry and literature – in short, every thing that was Kashmiri or related to Kashmir, which made him a quintessential Koshur Kashmiri, who yearned for peace to return back to Kashmir valley, so that Kashmir could once again regain her lost glory. He did everything in his capacity to bring back lasting and permanent peace to the troubled valley and in doing so, he has left a lasting legacy that makes him one of the most influential Kashmiris post 1990s.
Both as a bureau chief of prestigious daily “The Hindu”, where he worked for 15 years and later as a founding editor of “Rising Kashmir”, Shujaat Sahab wrote on plethora of issues pertaining to all aspects of Kashmir – be it social, political, environmental, cultural and most importantly the human aspects of the devastation that last three decades have caused to ordinary Kashmiris.
The kind of grip that Shujaat Sahab had on the nerve of Kashmir, no one could match the potency of his analysis. He was unsparing in his criticism towards anyone and everyone, who he felt was taking advantage of the misery of ordinary Kashmiris and working against the interests of Kashmir. This passion for Kashmir led him to take upon such diverse matters as the tragedy of Kashmir’s unmarked graves and extrajudicial disappearances as well as pathetic plight of Kashmir’s Wular, Anchar and Dal lakes, with equal ease and determination.
His greater interest lay in “culture of Kashmir” rather than “politics of Kashmir”. His passion for preservation of Koshur language made him lobby relentlessly with the state government for introduction of Koshur language as a subject in schools of Kashmir through a cultural organization called “Adabee Markaz Kamraz”, which he had formed to promote literary work in Koshur language. Had he grown up in 1960s and 70s, Shujaat Sahab would have been a cultural czar of Kashmir, sadly however, devastation of Kashmir meant that he had to divert his attention towards seeking a lasting peace and stability in Kashmir.
Seeking “Peace” has unfortunately become a dangerous endeavor in violence ridden Kashmir. And yet, this did not deter Shujaat Sahab from making efforts towards resolution of Kashmir conflict. He was fully aware of advantages that his powerful position as a prominent media personality gives him to both, push for official dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir issue as well as to hold unofficial dialogue among members of civil society of Kashmir, Pakistan and India to find a way out of the Kashmir conundrum including his active forays in “Track II diplomacy”. Yet at the same time he was not oblivious of risks involved in such efforts. He however continued his endeavors to find ways to get ever-suffering people of Kashmir out of their misery and his efforts soon made him one of the most visible and vocal votaries of peace from Kashmir in national and international conferences and gatherings.
After Shujaat Sahab’s assassination, while many of his colleagues in media fraternity wrote some of the most moving and memorable tributes in his remembrance; unfortunately, however, there was a rather undignified response of Kashmiri society to his assassination. While many in Kashmir paid their “tribute” to him by posting their “selfies” with him on their social media accounts, the same Kashmiri society however refused to come to any consensus on what led to his killing or who were responsible for his assassination. Like many thousands before him including those, about whom Shujaat Sahab had himself written, his brutal murder has also been unfortunately relegated to the realm of “conspiracy theories”.
The greatest hallmark of Shujaat Sahab’s efforts was that even amidst an atmosphere of death and destruction all over Kashmir, he persevered to work on issues, which would have otherwise, been ignored. All the gains that were made in cultural fields like development of Kashmiri literature etc. during 1960s & 70s were nearly lost during 1990s, when Kashmir was burning incessantly. Everything from environment to culture suffered in Kashmir. The remarkable thing about Shujaat Sahab’s efforts was his hard work in revival of Kashmiri literary traditions as well as highlighting social, cultural and environmental issues, while keeping a focus on the larger issue of the resolution of Kashmir conflict and bringing back peace and stability in Kashmir. Only he had the foresight to see that an already ravaged and bruised Kashmir cannot be allowed to lose its cultural soul. With Shujaat Sahab no longer being present amidst us, the greatest loss to Kashmir has been that there is no one even remotely in sight, who could act as a holistic well wisher of Kashmir. Sadly, absence of Shujaat Sahab has never been felt so strong.
(The author is a Political Activist and aspiring Politician, who has worked as PRO to Ex CM of J&K. He holds MBA & MPA degrees, besides having many years of corporate work experience at some of top Fortune-500 companies like INFOSYS TECHNOLOGIES BANGALORE…)