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Shock, fear in Press Colony

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CCTV footage released by Jammu and Kashmir police shows the three men who are suspected to have killed journalist Shujaat Bukhari . (PTI)

New Delhi: Srinagar’s Press Colony, where Shujaat Bukhari was shot on Thursday, is popularly known as Mushtaq Enclave. It is so named after journalist Mushtaq Ali, who was killed in a letter bomb attack in 1995.

The killer pack was actually intended for Yusuf Jameel, then The Telegraph‘s man in Kashmir. But Mushtaq, Jameel’s mate, happened to be the one to open the arriving parcel. It blew up Jameel’s Press Colony office and sent a chill down the fraternity.

The slaying of Shujaat, editor of Rising Kashmir and one of a bright new crop of latter generation Valley journalists, would leave stricken and shivered many times over for the quality and quantum of threat today is far greater than it was in 1995.

“It has left us stunned and shocked and frankly very frightened,” a senior journalist told me over the phone from Srinagar. “Not least because of how brazenly the killing was carried out. It is a message that militants can go anywhere, do what they want.”

At a conservative count 15 prominent journalists — reporters, editors, photographers — have been claimed by militancy-related violence since 1990; scores of others have been injured, some repeatedly.

Srinagar’s Press Colony, or Mushtaq Enclave, is located midtown on the arterial Residency Road. It is surrounded by government facilities, the busy Lal Chowk bazaars, and is a stone’s throw from the Kothi Bagh police station which is also the office of the SP of Srinagar, East, the city’s VVIP district. In short, Mushtaq Enclave falls in a high security district.

“Militants have struck a high-value target in the heart of town after a while, this is a strong message,” the editor of a Srinagar daily told The Telegraph. “It is not clear yet who might have done this or why, but if I were to speculate, I would say it is a strike to sabotage whatever the Ramazan cease-fire was intended to achieve. Shujaat has been martyred to send out a message.”

Shujaat, a peripatetic traveller, had only just returned to Kashmir after spending a fortnight away in Portugal and Turkey. After participating in the World Editors’ Conference at Lisbon, Bukhari had travelled to Konya in Turkey’s Anatolian plains, to visit the memorial of Rumi, the Sufi fount. He had, in fact, changed his Facebook profile picture at Konya, and posted one of him standing outside Rumi’s mazaar.

An affable and keen professional, Shujaat had made friends across the fraternity and often spoke on the media and its challenges in Jammu and Kashmir at platforms outside the Valley. Forever willing to make time for visiting journalists, he was one of Srinagar’s essential listening posts, forever prepared to share information and perspective.?

“We are squeezed in by all sides,” he would often say, in seriousness and in jest. “Tell me what the squeezed ones can do for you.”

His eagerness to inform and engage, which he thought his essential part as a Kashmiri journalist, was apparent from the constant activity on his social media handles. Those have now been brutally silenced.

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