Journalists are the latest targets, so are common people, but those with pen in their hands are more – because those with guns feel insecure about the power that those with pens have. Maybe that is why, they killed yet another journalist, adding to the list – Shujaat Bukhari, a well-known influencing voice of nowhere but the paradise land – Kashmir. What has happened cannot be reversed at any cost, but the question is, will we ever know who killed Shujaat Bukhari?

On Thursday, June 14, 2018, a journalist who has been active and influential since over three decades – known for his work in Kashmir, in India and beyond the borders – the founder and editor-in-chief of a media house named Rising Kashmir was shot dead for no apparent reason in broad daylight along with his two personal security officers. This assassination brought India face-to-face with the chilling reality of the Valley and the fraught nature of journalism, as a profession. For Bukhari was no controversial journalist, he was rather a warrior of peace, trying to find the “middle way” to bring peace in the beautiful dangerous land of Jammu and Kashmir.

What makes this a graver truth is, the three motorcycle-borne assassins who shot down Bukhari and his security officers on Thursday evening in front of his office at Srinagar’s Press Enclave have managed to hide their identities so efficiently, despite CCTV cameras installed across the city. Soon after the incident, condemnation had poured in from far and wide – even from beyond the ideologically divided realm. There were condemnations from mainstream and separatist political organisations of Kashmir, from political leaders of India and Pakistan. Even both the militant groups – United Jihad Council and the Lashkar-e-Taiba have condemned the killing of Shujaat. The Jihad Council chief Syed Salahuddin has personally sought international inquiry for the case and Laskhar chief Mahmood Shah reportedly suspects “a conspiracy behind the assassination of Shujoot”.

This begs the answer to the question – who got Shujaat Bukhari killed? The government blames the militant groups and those groups are blaming the government with hidden conspiracy involving intelligence agencies. Meanwhile, the three killers and their whereabouts merely come out as just rumours and innuendo that fills the space. It is like a perfidious play of the conflict when the identities of the victims and the perpetrators sometimes fuse. This reminds me of the quote from a book called The Meadows, which says that “everything that happened here involved acts of ventriloquism, with traitors, proxies and informers deployed by both sides, and civilians becoming the casualties.” Here, it was a powerful, non-controversial and a peaceful voice that became irreparably vulnerable. The question still persists, who killed Shujaat Bukhari? Do we have the answer?

1961