Mir Syed Shujaat Bukhari

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by Umar Mukhtar

The journey of Shujaat Bukhari’s life started from his native village Kreeri in Baramulla, which he left after finishing his secondary school education. Born to Syed Rafiudin Bukhari, a professor and a school teacher mother, since early childhood Bukhari was exposed to an academic atmosphere.

The journalists in a protest march against the assassination of veteran journalist  Syed Shujaat Bukhari. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

According to a close relative, since his childhood, Bukhari was highly influenced by his elder sister Nusrat. “She was his guide and philosopher; they were completely dependent on each other.” Nusrat is also a teacher.

Once Bukhari finished his schooling at Kreeri, his parents sent him to Sopore town for graduation in humanities. His next destination was Kashmir University (KU). But after spending a few months there, Bukhari left KU to join as a clerk in Accountant General’s office in Srinagar. He would draw a handsome salary. However, at the same time, he started contributing for a Srinagar based Urdu magazine called ‘Takbeer.’ He had earlier written items in Samachar Post and Hind Samachar.

After his stories were published in Takbeer, his interest in journalism increased. In order to be a full-time journalist, he convinced his parents and quit his job. In the summer of 1993, he joined Kashmir Times newspaper as a full-time reporter. He reported on almost all facets of life in Kashmir during his early days as a journalist.

Syed Noordin, a relative, remembers his love for journalism, “He was very curious to read newspapers since his childhood and was the first person who setup news agency at Kreeri.”

In 1996-97, Bukhari did his masters from Madurai Kamaraj University, Tamil Nadu.

After completing his masters, Bukhari joined The Hindu as a correspondent at Srinagar. He worked with the organisation till 2012 and left it as Senior Assistant Editor. Besides he wrote for other national and international news outlets including BBC about the social and political developments happening in the conflict-torn Valley.

In the broadcast medium, he reported for Germany’s Radio Deutsche Welle for many years. Bukhari also used to participate in television debates and talk shows.

In the meantime, he was awarded a fellowship at Asian centre for journalism, Singapore. He also did his PhD from Manila, Philippines.

Apart from being a journalist, he would participate in a number of international seminars around the globe, where he would talk about Kashmir. Bukhari had recently attended the ‘Gen Summit’ in Lisbon where at least 100 editors from across the globe came together.

Later in the year 2008, Bukhari launched his own daily newspaper, Rising Kashmir. He was editor in chief of the daily. Also, he was the promoter of the Kashmir Media Group (KMG), which published an Urdu and a Kashmiri daily – Buland Kashmir and Sangarmaal. Sangarmaal is considered as the only public platform available for the literati’s of Kashmiri language.  In 2015, KMG launched Kashmir Parcham – an Urdu weekly.

The attack on the Bukhari was not the first one, earlier he had survived three other attempts on his life. But unlike the June 14, 2018, attack, he survived.

In 2006, Bukhari was abducted by some “masked unknown men” and taken to some far away location with an intention to kill him. When one of the assailants tried to shoot him by a pistol, the weapon jammed. Bukhari managed to escape, miraculously the assassination bid that time.

Later talking about the incident, he told ‘Reporters without Borders’ that people behind such incidents are rarely caught here. “It is virtually impossible to know who are our enemies and who are our friends.” Kashmir has a tryst with the unknown gunmen from the early 90’s. Many people were killed by the unidentified gunmen and till date, they had managed to keep their identity anonymous.

After Bukhari’s killing, people from all walks of life condemned the attack and termed it as ‘brutal and barbaric.’ His killing was condemned by everybody cutting across party affiliations.

Bukhari, besides being a top-notch journalist, was an advocate of promoting the Kashmiri language. He also served a term as president at Adbi Markaz Kamraz – a literary organization comprising poets and playwrights of Kashmiri language.

Bukhari was in love with technology. A widely travelled man, he was using the best phones. He was hugely active on the social media. On Twitter, he was being followed by more than 52000 people. What was interesting is that he was very active on the social media. Some of his posts had led to a lot trolling. He was perhaps the only Kashmiri journalist who had friends globally.

A strong votary for the freedom of speech, Bukhari was on the forefront in the battle against the ban of Kashmir Reader in 2016. Bukhari in 2016 wrote an article for BBC news about the threat to Kashmiri journalists they are facing: “Threats to life, intimidation, assault, arrest and censorship have been part of the life of a typical local journalist.”

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