The Masked Men and Their Vilification Campaign
Fayyaz and Iftikhar Geelani new targets
Editors Note; It is disturbing to learn that other senior and respected journalists in Jammu and Kashmir are already feeling the heat, being at the end of the same vilification campaign on the social media that targeted Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari and eventually took his life. This is a post taken from the Facebook page of journalist and columnist Ahmed Ali Fayyaz and needs to be read for journalist organisations outside Kashmir to step in and ensure their protection. And ask why journalists should be feeling so pressured as to explain themselves to unidentified men, masked on the social media, and masked on the streets. This headline given by Fayyaz to his FB post was The Masked Man’s Vilification Campaign that we have tweaked, but the text is as posted:
The same people who ran a sustained vilification campaign in social media against senior Kashmiri journalist Syed Shujaat Bukhari till his assassination and are still continuing it, have now turned to another senior Kashmiri journalist Iftikhar Gillani and myself.
They have posted our photographs on the same portal with a vitriolic heap of text which vilified and denigrates us both as "dubious characters", men of "hypocritical approach" et al. Their content, inter alia, reads: "These guys claim to be the saviors of Kashmir cause by initiating the peace process but on the other hand put forward the Indian version of solution and internally represent Indian interests through their so called Peace Process Initiatives".
I can't speak on behalf of our slain colleague or respected Iftikhar Gillani Sahab. However, I feel it necessary to respond to this campaign on behalf of myself with the following clarification:
1. First, this vitriolic content about me is totally unfounded and apparently the result of someone's disliking me or hating my persona as a journalist for reasons not known to me. From day one in this noble profession, I have performed simply as a journalist and never ever associated myself with any "peace process", track-2 or any other "diplomacy" or even any NGO. Staying away from all kinds of extra-curricular activism, I have restricted myself simply to the fundamental job of a journalist---reporting developments, analysing issues and writing op-ed pieces. I have never ever taken upon myself the task of strengthening or weakening any narrative or ideology or attempted to impose my personal ideology on my esteemed readers who are from vast, diverse opinions and backgrounds. So it is completely malicious and preposterous to allege that I have anybody's brief in discharging my duty. Everybody who knows me is well aware that I have never attended a track-2 conference or so-called peace initiative held in any part of the world. I have never ever claimed to be the "saviour of Kashmiri cause" or someone "finding a solution to the Kashmir problem". I believe this is not a proscribed activity for a journalist but I have been holding the opinion that this job should be left to other organs of the civil society.
2. Second, it's a brazen misrepresentation of fact that I have not posted anything in reaction to Lal Singh's threat to journalists. My audacious criticism to this threat has been prominently on my Twitter handle.
3. Third, the allegation that I am one among the people who have been influencing America's South-Asia policy to India's suitably is also completely baseless. Throughout my career I have steered clear of such State and non-State affiliations and diplomatic operations. My activity has been purely professional and academic while attending only those conferences and workshops which are not directly or indirectly sponsored by any side of the Kashmir conflict. This is a brazen, shameless and unfounded allegation that the US diplomat Lisa Curtis met me when she was in Kashmir last year. My first and last meeting with this lady happened along with a group of J&K journalists in August 2005 when we were in Washington DC on IVLP Program of US State Department. Those days she worked with Chairman of Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.
4. Last, but not the least, let it be clear to one and all that I have always expressed my opinion on different issues as per my own observation, perception and understanding of things and strictly as per my own conscience without succumbing to any fear or favour even in the most challenging circumstances. It was because of this moral strength that on many occasions I took cudgels with State and non-State actors whenever they attempted to intimidate for a piece of journalism or exposing the atrocities they committed against helpless, voiceless people. I always stood my ground against heavy odds from exposing the brutal murder of the 20-year-old bridegroom Tahir Makhdoomi of Tujjar Sharief by a Major of the Indian army to dozens of fake encounters including Pathribal to the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua to Major Gogoi's escapades. I neither need a certificate from any masked key-board actor nor will I ever take dictation under any naked or insidious threat from any individual or country under any circumstances. Those trying it, for whatever purpose, will be simply wasting their own time and energy and invoking Almighty's curse upon themselves.