Tribute | Other States

Shujaat Bukhari was rooted in Kashmir’s cultural ethos

Syed Shujaat Bukhari, the assassinated 50-year-old journalist, was rooted in Kashmir's cultural ethos.

A gifted orator, he had an equal command over Urdu, Kashmiri and English. His appreciation of Kashmiri poetry and prose and his taste for Urdu literature made him a prominent invitee at cultural events.

Editorial | Act of intimidation

It was thanks to his campaign that the move to drop Nastaliq, the traditional Perso-Arabic script, as the Kashmiri script was shelved; this despite the opposition by cultural groups promoting Devanagari and Sharda.

The advocacy of the cultural group Adbee Markaz Kamraz, which Bukhari headed, succeeded in introducing the Kashmiri language back in schools in 2008, after a gap of over three decades.

He was a linguistic nationalist, and his much-awaited dream to see Kashmiri taught up to Class 10 was realised in June 2017, despite opposition from many quarters.

His efforts to publish books in Kashmiri despite dearth of funds and promote local writers went a long way in helping the survival of a language on the verge of extinction.

Bukhari’s involvement in cultural activities turned his office at Rising Kashmir into a buzzing cultural space, where people from all walks of life were welcome to a steaming cup of nun chai, the traditional pink salty tea.

His growing clout strengthened the activist in him. He championed several causes — from protesting against growing mortality rates among babies at a Srinagar hospital to saving Dal Lake.

Public service

During the 2014 floods, Bukhari rescued people from marooned houses by rowing inflatable boats himself and supplied essentials to the needy; he was proud that he was able to shift several Hindu families to safe locations.

One held for Shujaat Bukhari’s killing

He took it upon himself to become the caretaker of the family of journalist Pervaiz Sultan, assassinated in 2003 in the same building that housed his office.

One of the few Kashmiri journalists who was well-travelled, Bukhari became the face and voice of Kashmir in international fora. He wore his politics on his sleeve.

A moderate Muslim, who feared that extreme interpretations of the Koran “will consume society from within”, he was anguished over the killing of local policemen, the use of excessive force against protesters and the choking of political space, especially of separatist leaders.

He believed that talks between India and Pakistan was the way forward on Kashmir, a theme he dwelt on in public forums.

He was a firm believer in “an incremental solution to the protracted Kashmir problem rather than looking for a one-time event”. He was for a win-win situation for all.

Bukhari was an avid social media user, and his lines from our last conversation in the second week of Ramzan are vivid in my mind: “Kashmir is growing into a vicious place. We are baying for each other’s blood. We label people and create false perceptions. It perturbs me the most.”

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2020 4:35:23 AM |

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