Several unidentified gunmen fired at Shujaat Bukhari, 50, outside his office as he was leaving for an iftar party (the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast), according to media reports. He suffered injuries to the head and abdomen, according to a report on the Free Press Kashmir news website. Two police officers, who had been assigned to protect him after an attack in 2000, were also fired at, the reports said. All three were rushed to the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital where they died, according to news reports. The Rising Kashmir office is located in Srinagar city’s Press Colony, a high-security zone that houses other media organizations, according to a report in The Telegraph newspaper.
On June 15, police released images of three suspects on a motorcycle captured on closed-circuit TV, according to a report on the NDTV 24X7 news channel. SP Pani, the inspector general of the Jammu and Kashmir state police, told CPJ that Zubair Qadri, a fourth suspect, had been arrested on June 15 and a pistol was recovered from the scene of the crime. Footage showed him stealing a pistol from one of the slain security officers, according to a report on The Wire news website. When asked if any organization had claimed responsibility, Pani said that the killing was being treated as a "terrorism-related" crime and did not elaborate. When asked about the number of gunmen who killed Bukhari, Pani said this was "a matter of investigation.”
Amarjit Singh Dulat, a former director of Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency, claimed that Bukhari had approached Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, for “increased security” a few days before his death, according to news reports. Naeem Akhtar, a minister in the Jammu and Kashmir state government, did not take calls from CPJ seeking comment. Pani denied knowledge of the statement made by Dulat.
Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen, militant organizations that have been accused of violence in the state in the past, blamed Indian agencies for the killing and called it a “conspiracy to suppress the voices of an indigenous freedom struggle,” according to media reports. Jitendra Singh, a junior minister in the Indian prime minister’s office, in the Hindustan Times blamed “Pakistan-sponsored agencies” and said Bukhari was killed because he “tried to find a middle path.” Singh provided no evidence to link the killing to any Pakistan-associated group.
In May this year, Bukhari had written a piece for the Scroll.in news website, in which he welcomed the Indian government’s decision to suspend military operations against alleged terrorists during the month of Ramadan in Kashmir. He said the ceasefire “offered a glimmer of hope to the common people.” Manoj Joshi, a political commentator, wrote on The Wire that his killing was aimed at disrupting any move toward establishing peace in the state.
Between 1997 and 2012, Bukhari was the state bureau chief for The Hindu newspaper, before he started Rising Kashmir, according to a report in the paper. Colleagues and friends described him as someone who had moderate and nuanced views about the conflict-ridden situation in Kashmir. Siddharth Varadarajan, founding editor of The Wire, told CPJ that “he was the most sober, reliable, cautious, and objective of all national correspondents who were reporting Kashmir.”
“He took on everyone: the violent militants who promote separatism and the Indian and Pakistani armies that shell each other from the swaths of the province they both occupy,” wrote journalist Sameer Yasir wrote in The New York Times.