Srinagar: Veteran journalist and Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari was shot dead outside the newspaper's office in the heart of Srinagar by bike-borne gunmen on Thursday evening. Two personal security officers assigned to him by Jammu and Kashmir police were also killed whereas a civilian was injured in the attack, police said.
Fifty-three-year-old Bukhari, who had worked as the state correspondent for national daily 'The Hindu' for several years, was shot dead soon after he boarded his car from his office located at Press Enclave in Lal Chowk.
"While Shujaat Bukhari was travelling in a car near Press Enclave, he was fired (upon) indiscriminately which resulted in instant death of Bhukari and a PSO who was with him. The other PSO who was shifted to the hospital in critical condition has succumbed to his injury," the statement said.
"Preliminary investigation...indicates this as a terror attack. Police is investigating the case and condemn this gruesome terror act," the statement said.
The unidentified militants, believed to be three in number, were waiting as it is believed that they had the knowledge about the time Bukhari was to leave office. They fired indiscriminately on the vehicle carrying him and fled on a motorcycle along with a weapon of a Personal Security Officer (PSO) Abdul Hamid, who was also killed on the spot.
Bukhari is survived by his wife and one son and a daughter.
Police and locals inspect the damaged vehicle after suspected militants attacked senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari and his PSO's in Srinagar on Thursday. (PTI Photo)
Grief-stricken relatives and friends of Shujaat Bukhari inside a police control room in Srinagar on Thursday. (PTI Photo)
Another PSO, identified as Hameed, and a civilian were injured in the attack. The policeman later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.
The journalist is the brother of Bashrat Ahmed Bukhari, a minister in the Mehbooba Mufti government.
An anguished Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti broke down while denouncing the "mindless" killing of Bukhari as she recalled her meeting with the renowned journalist a few days ago. "What can I say. Only a few days ago he had come to meet me," an emotional Mufti said, struggling to hold back her tears.
Several organisations of journalists also condemned the killing.
Hours before he was killed, Bukhari distinguishable by his over six-foot tall frame and husky voice was steadfastly defending his work on microblogging site Twitter when he was accused by some Delhi-based journalists of biased coverage.
"...In #Kashmir we have done Journalism with pride and will continue to highlight what happens on ground," he had said in the tweet.
As the news of his cold-blooded killing spread, the social media reacted with shock and disgust about the cowardly act as politicians, journalists and common people expressed their condolences and condemnation of the barbaric act.
Mufti said in a message that she was shocked and saddened by Bukhari's "sudden demise".
"The scourge of terror has reared its ugly head on the eve of Eid. I strongly condemn this act of mindless violence & pray for his soul to rest in peace. My deepest condolences to his family," the chief minister said on Twitter.
Terrorism, she said, has hit a new low with Bukhari's killing, "that too on the eve of Eid". "We must unite against forces seeking to undermine our attempts to restore peace. Justice will be done," Mehbooba said.
Home minister Rajnath Singh said he was extremely pained by Bukhari’s death and called it an attempt to silence the saner voices of Kashmir. He said he did not have an iota of doubt that terrorists killed Bukhari.
“The killing of @RisingKashmir editor, Shujaat Bukhari is an act of cowardice. It is an attempt to silence the saner voices of Kashmir. He was a courageous and fearless journalist. Extremely shocked & pained at his death. My thoughts and prayers are with his bereaved family,” he tweeted.
Rahul Gandhi also offered his condolences to the family and said Bukhari would be missed. “I’m anguished to hear about the killing of Shujaat Bukhari, editor of @RisingKashmir. He was a brave heart who fought fearlessly for justice and peace in Jammu & Kashmir. My condolences to his family. He will be missed,” tweeted.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad termed him a close friend and lauded his role during the floods of 2014. "In him we have lost a fearless journalist and a great social worker," he said.
BJP national General Secretary Ram Madhav also termed the senior journalist's killing a cowardly act by the terrorists. In a tweet, he said, "Shocked to hear about d attack on d Editor-in-Chief of Rising Kashmir Shujaat Bukhari in Srinagar. Reprehensible n condemnable cowardly act of d terrorists (sic)"
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah said, "Shocked beyond words. May Shujaat find place in Jannat & May his loved ones find strength at this difficult time."
Abdullah also posted a screenshot of his last conversation with Bukhari on Twitter. Bukhari was instrumental in organising several conferences for peace in the Kashmir Valley. He was also part of the Track II process with Pakistan.