‘Dirty War In Kashmir’

Silencing a Sane Voice

Joydip Ghosal

A voice had been silenced in Kashmir valley on June14, 2018. Sujaat Bukhari, according to Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami, MLA Kulgam, was a powerful voice. He aptly described his death as a ‘huge loss to democratic ethos. This is a grave attack not only on press freedom but also an assault on voices of sanity and reason.” He was the editor of Rising Kashmir. He also acted as correspondent of The Hindu. He was the initiator of Urdu daily Buland Kashmir and Urdu weekly Kashmir Parcham. He also started Kashmiri language paper Sangarmal. He was the president of a literary forum Abadi Markaz Kamraz.

Before he was killed he documented for the Frontline magazine his well-researched articles where he delved deeper into the complexities of multi-layered Kashmir. He cautiously tried to peel them off to unearth the stark facts laced with bitter truths both for the ruling dispensation and opposition. The book The ‘Dirty War in Kashmir’, Frontline Reports (Published by Leftword) reflected on Hindutwabadi bigots, lopsided policies of the state, impunity enjoyed by law enforcing agencies, rise of radical insurgencies, surging protest against the atrocities. This book explains the true nature of the problem in the valley of death and the multifaceted aspects of militancy and resistance.

His role as a journalist working in a region of multiple-conflicts where the population got alienated from state forced readers to ponder over the Kashmir issue from a newer angle. Through the foreword by Vijaya Sankar it is known that Sujaat’s association with Frontline began when he started working as Hindu’s Kashmir correspondent between September 1, 1997, and March 31, 2012. John Cherian, magazine’s world affairs editor pointed out that the association cemented since 2013.After the hanging of Afzal Guru on 9th February, 2013 he wrote an incisive piece. Despite his serious involvement in many peace processes he maintained objectivity in these articles of the book Dirty War. He stressed that rest of India tries to comprehend the Kashmir issue in a holistic perspective. (Courtesy: RK Radhakrishnan). That is why Kashmir Initiative Group was born which traversed across India and raised and debated the Kashmir question and urged people to participate in the debate. His learning came from deep understanding of valley’s troubles. Dilrukshi Handunnetti , a lawyer and Sri Lanka - based journalist said that Sujaat raised his voice against information curfew. His Rising Kashmir had been shut down at least on three occasions. He always reported from perilous places which were ‘political playground for two countries.’ According to Radhakrishnan valley’s journalists were like chroniclers of death. Sujaat was deeply concerned about that.

In the article titled Simmering Valley Sujaat delineated in details his apprehensions regarding comments of Chidambaram when he said that India was on the brink of losing Kashmir. He said such voices were minority. When the whole Kashmir promulgated an emphatic no to a bye- election in 2017 the reality actually dawned on people. He tried to delve deeper into the ground realities of Kashmir when new battle lines were drawn in Kashmir after 2016. The anger against the system had reached a crescendo. He brought forth the reasons why people put up resistance to the presence of security forces during anti- militancy operations. In the book he clearly stated that the space for stone- pelters broadened because a big chasm existed as there was absence of meaningful political engagement. He lambasted at the role of jingoistic media when he said that the war portrayed on the media causing more damage. In one of the article he drew stark distinction between the militancy of South and North Kashmir. In South Kashmir militants used social media as was evident in the case of Burhan Wani. But in North Kashmir the militants stayed away from using social media.

With his skilful analysis in the essay he tried to bring forth the reasons why the attack on Amarnath jatra was a chilling reminder on the grim security situation in the Kashmir valley. The attack was projected as instance of communal violence but the ground reality was that it was part of larger security issue. On the other hand a redeeming aspect was the outright disapproval of this act of dastard nature. Cutting across religious divide all sections came together to castigate the attack in unequivocal terms. Sujaat said they vehemently criticised that act because that went against ‘Kashmiri ethos.’ According to him the unity displayed by people of various hues in condemning the violence was silver lining in the gloominess and pensive dark atmosphere that enveloped the valley. Before the abrogation of article 370 and 35 A he studied seriously the implications and serious ramifications if these articles were tinkered with. He also deftly described the fate of various enquiries which were lost in the maze of oblivion.

As he was votary of intrepid and objective journalism Sujaat always stood for resolution of Kashmir imbroglio. He was personally involved in track II dialogue. During the PDP – BJP alliance he commented that it was a ruse to woo the voters on the part of BJP. The valley might present a semblance of normalcy at that time. But with his journalistic acumen and foresightedness he was able to point out the simmering rage laced with discontent and utter despondency. In this book he also tried to understand the role of interlocutors when Dineshwar Sharma was appointed. He expressed his apprehension because it did not hold much promise for breaking the political deadlock. He expressed his concern because many interlocutors sounded out of touch with the ground reality. The space had been squeezed to such an extent that any individual who carried the baggage of bygone days might not be in a position to find fine balance. When the ruling dispensation was anointed in power every effort had been made to make Kashmir look like a security problem which can be solved by applying military might. Although militancy is a hard reality, the reasons for its political existence cannot be ruled out. Persistent denial of that reality had precipitated the inclination of the young ones to militancy.

The editor of this book aptly called that these pieces offer insights into the means to bring about lasting peace and democracy in the otherwise restive valley.

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Vol 56, No. 8, Aug 20 - 26, 2023