Go to Kashmir to Find the Truth: Shujaat Bukhari’s Words Ring Loud
“You cannot sit in AC rooms and debate or rue about the violence in Kashmir,” the murdered journalist had told us.
Shujaat Bukhari – I will always remember him as the man who invited 200 aspiring journalists to Kashmir to find out the truth.
In August, 2016, at about 9 am in the morning, when I entered the auditorium of Asian College of Journalism, Chennai for a lecture on the “Realities of Kashmir”, I assumed it would be another one of those attempts to brush up a partisan narrative.
Shujaat Bukhari, introduced as a senior journalist and editor of Rising Kashmir , was standing at the dias, in a green-checked shirt, with a pen and a notepad in his hand and an inexplicable calm on his face, patiently waiting for us to settle down.
Barely 45 minutes and my assumption was proven wrong. For the first time someone did not tell us what is right or what is wrong in Kashmir. For the first time someone told us to find out for ourselves.
You cannot sit in AC rooms and debate or rue about the violence in Kashmir. If you want to find out the truth, I invite all of you to come work with me in Kashmir. Come there and see for yourself.Shujaat Bukhari
And I felt like I wanted to go. To find the truth. To differentiate propaganda from reality in a state which has been boiling for decades now. And, I am sure many of my classmates felt the same.
Bukhari’s lecture was strewn with incidents, anecdotes, reason and emotions but not for once were they manipulative or divisive. He did not want us to be biased to any “camps”. He narrated how his travel across the affected areas in Kashmir, which now looked like “battlefields” has taught him to understand the nerve of the common people. Not politics or militancy, Bukhari told us about the effects of them on innocent people in Kashmir who struggle to survive every single day with death facing them in the eye.
He told us to ask tough uncomfortable question to powerful people, to seek reason over prejudice, to be hopeful about a peaceful Kashmir and to become fearless journalists of India.
Bukhari was shot dead on Thursday, 14 June, by unknown gunmen. The voice that rose for the people in Kashmir was silenced, sending a spine-chilling message to freedom of press and fearless journalism in the country.
Do I feel threatened? Yes. I am human.
Am I still up for accepting Bukhari’s invitation to Kashmir? You bet!
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