Shujaat Bukhari Was a Fearless Journalist in Kashmir. He Was Also My Friend.


When the insurgency was reinvigorated in 2016, after the death of its leader, Burhan Wani, I spent months reporting on dozens of funerals of militants, police officers and civilians. The stories haunted me, as did the lack of hope for my homeland, and I was eventually treated for chronic depression and anxiety. This is what life is like for a reporter in the Kashmir Valley.No one knows which side of the conflict your journalism may offend, or which sentence may mean a bullet in the head, like Mr. Bukhari received.Before Mr. Bukhari, the last journalist in the region to be killed was Parvaz Mohammed Sultan, shot in broad daylight in 2003 for reporting on a militant group’s internal feud. A seasoned reporter, Yusuf Jameel, survived a parcel bomb explosion in his Srinagar office in 1995, after his colleague Mushtaq Ali opened the packet and died.Another friend, Zafar Iqbal, was lucky to survive being shot at point-blank range, although his face still bears the scars from the assault.“We are soft targets,” Mr. Iqbal once told me.In Kashmir, journalists have faced threats, detention and harassment for decades. But this, as Mr. Bukhari would say, is part of our job.On Thursday evening, a group of journalists gathered outside the offices of Rising Kashmir. The road was littered with shards of glass from his car windows. One journalist, Masood Hussain, broke down. Now the editor of Kashmir Life magazine, he had mentored Mr. Bukhari in the 1980s.“Shujaat, I never thought that I will write your obituary,” Mr. Hussain cried aloud.He then walked away, disappearing along a dark road, the glass from Mr. Bukhari’s car windows crunching under his feet.

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