Srinagar: On June 14, just as the sun was beginning to set, Kashmir’s press enclave witnessed gory scenes. Three men were brutally assassinated by unknown gunmen who indiscriminately fired upon their targets.
The most prominent victim was Shujaat Bukhari, a stalwart supporter of Kashmiri Journalism.
Standing out always because of his tall physical stature, he came to be known as Shujaat Sahab everywhere for his equally tall achievements in his field.
This was particularly so among his colleagues and others of the journalism fraternity, and especially among those new in the field. He commanded respect for what he was, and he was a mentor to all.
He breathed his last in the very press enclave where for more than 20 years he had arrived every day to dispatch his journalistic duties.
A day after his death, the press enclave, where Bukhari had always greeted all journalists with a smile on his face upon his arrival, wears a deserted look. It has turned into a ghost town of sorts.
The bullet riddled wall of the building that is home to Rising Kashmir, the paper the slain journalist founded and edited, bears witness to the horrific crime that was perpetrated at this spot.
Shujaat Bukhari and his two guards were fired upon at close range and a barrage of bullets rained on them after they had just sat down in his SUV. Some of the bullets missed the target and hit the wall instead.
On closer examination of the crime scene, one can see shards of glass lying on the ground, also bearing witness to the brutal act that has shaken the entire Valley.
Reports said during the post mortem doctors removed more than 60 bullets from Bukhari’s body.
The entrance of the enclave is guarded by two police vans today, and that is why one cannot help but wonder where they were when the man who was the shining star of the enclave was silenced forever.
The atmosphere at the enclave is one of gloom, and the faces of those who work there are a reflection of the tragedy that has occurred.
Not a single smile is seen nor any bursts of laughter can be heard in the enclave that has witnessed joy, jubilation, and so many achievements.
Today all the journalists are dumbfounded and wondering why their colleague, mentor, and friend was snatched from them for good.
From old to young, from the established journalists to the cub reporters, everyone who visits the press colony today is in total shock, and it feels as if a calamity had befallen the entire place.
The haunting silence throughout the press enclave is ripping apart everyone from the inside out. There is no chatter, there is no gossip, and there is no discussion, but there are sullen faces all looking for answers.
There is anger and then there is fear too, but then there is also courage. And courage is what defines journalism in Kashmir.
It is this courage that brings hope with it, the hope that the press enclave cannot be silenced forever.