The morning after senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari was shot dead outside his office, the Rising Kashmir, the newspaper that he started and edited, made it to the stands in the Valley. On its front page was a tribute to its slain editor-in-chief, who was counted among Kashmir's courageous and balanced voices. The 50-year-old journalist's life-size portrait against a black background was both intense and symbolic.
"You left all too sudden but you will always be our leading light with your professional conviction and exemplary courage. We won't be cowed down by the cowards who snatched you from us. We will uphold your principle of telling the truth howsoever unpleasant it may be..." the tribute said.
Last evening, soon after he had stepped out of his office in Press Colony, just before iftaar, Mr Bukhari was shot at close range in the attack in which his two security officers were also killed. The killers were quick. After a generous firing to ensure instant death, they fled on a motorcycle.
The inside pages of the Rising Kashmir carried stories on the government's reaction, Pakistan's condemnation of the assassination, and a small piece on one of his last tweets that read, "First-ever @UNHumanRights report on #Kashmir calls for #international inquiry into multiple violations". "In #Kashmir we have done Journalism with pride and will continue to highlight what happens on ground," said another tweet.
In the newspaper's online edition, the main story on the home page was headlined, "Shujaat Silenced". The strapline said, "Fearless journalist pays price for upholding the truth". The story informed that he was headed home when unknown gunmen fired indiscriminately on his vehicle.
"...Bukhari, who was in his 50s, received volley of bullets shattering the window panes of his vehicle and leaving him and the two policemen in a pool of blood. The shooting comes a day ahead of Eid," it read.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said taking out a full edition despite Mr Bukhari's killing is the most fitting tribute to him.
"The show must go on. As Shujaat would have wanted it to. This is today's @RisingKashmir issue. That Shujaat's colleagues were able to bring out the paper in the face of insurmountable grief is a testament to their professionalism & the most fitting tribute to their late boss," Mr Abdullah wrote on Twitter as he shared a picture of the front page of the paper.
The attack took place hours after Home Minister Rajnath Singh held a security review meeting for the annual Amarnath pilgrimage that starts later this month. Sources say Rajnath Singh's peace initiative in Kashmir, a ceasefire, may not extend beyond Ramzan, which is expected to end with Eid tomorrow.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who had rushed to the police hospital where Mr Bukhari's body was brought to console his grief-stricken family, described the killing as "highly barbaric, deplorable and condemnable". "It's very difficult to believe. He came to meet me just a few days ago," she said.
"His killing has only established that violence cannot stand the scrutiny of logic and rationality. The whole state stands in unanimity in condemning this inhuman act of savagery," Ms Mufti said in a statement.
She added that Mr Bukhari had become the voice of the people. "He would often fight for the issues of people through his columns and various discussions but alas this voice of people stands silenced today brutally," she said.
Jammu and Kashmir Governor NN Vohra called it "a big loss to the media fraternity". In a message, Mr Vohra has prayed for peace to the departed soul and strength to the bereaved family to bear this irreparable loss.
Mr Bukhari was "a voice of moderation and a courageous, big-hearted editor", said the Editors' Guild and condemned his killing which "is a new low in a rapidly deteriorating environment for media practitioners in Kashmir, in particular, and in the country in general".
Mr Bukhari was laid to rest in his ancestral village in Kreeri in north Kashmir's Baramulla district today. Thousands braved heavy rain to attend his funeral procession.
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