The Kashmiri Journalist: Between a Dangerous Rock and A Sinister Hard Place
Terror takes over speech and dissent
Journalists have been protesting on the social media, and various journalist bodies issuing statements and writing to the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh amongst others, about the death threats being received by Kashmiri journalists. Specifically, and also generally. Strangely enough there has been no concrete response. After Shukaat Bukhari’s shocking and tragic assassination a gun has been firmly placed against the forehead of all independent scribes and bolder voices in Jammu and Kashmir. And the matter becomes even more serious as no one seems to know who is holding that gun, or how many hands there are. Opinion in the Valley, and indeed concerned parts of the country, is clearly divided about who killed Bukhari in a shadowy state, plagued by agencies, vested interests, complicated power play. Both within and without. Hence the demand in these columns earlier that the murder be solved at the earliest, with credible and complete evidence.
But for the moment even the expected reactions from authorities are missing. Threats directly targeting Kashmiri journalists have made themselves heard from two quarters. One from a vilification campaign run, or driven, by a supposed blogger on a website who first targeted Bukhari who was then killed. He has since named two other well known journalists Iftikhar Geelani and Ahmed Fayyaz and has also printed a list of other bold and courageous voices from the Valley of scholars well known and well regarded. The site has acquired new fame after the assassination as clearly it is being used by those who wield authority, even if it is of a kind that should have them all behind bars if there is any justice left in this world. However, what is astounding is the seeming lack of response from the government here in tracing the site, and establishing with all the power at its command, the origins. This despite the fact that journalist organisations have all issued statements asking for a thorough investigation into this, so that the culprits are identified and acted against. The site appears to be run by Pakistan, containing vile anti-India propaganda.
The second threat has come from BJP leader Lal Singh who held a press conference to warn Kashmiri journalists to toe the line lest they meet a fate like that of Shujaat Bukhari. This led to a spate of protest with journalists from across the country demanding the BJP sack him. However Lal Singh of Kathua march fame remains well ensconced with the BJP hedging bets. There has been no word from senior BJP leaders in Delhi on this, with the silence almost amounting to support.
This is modern day manifestation of the 1990’s where the innocent Kashmiri was trapped between the state and non-state terrorists. Both had a gun on his/her forehead, with many losing their lives or being arrested or abducted for being seen as supporters of the other. Today the vile site claims to speak for the militants, and the BJP MLA for the state. The journalists today are in this pincer like grip, with freedom of speech and dissent now under serious threat. In this scenario the notice by the National Human Rights Commission to the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary is at best a small intervention, and perhaps made even more necessary by the global attention the state is receiving. More so against the UNHR report urging an independent body for investigating the developments within the border state.
The terrorists, or those hiding behind an anonymous website issuing dire threats, are not going to ensure the safety of Kashmiri journalists and others. In fact quite the contrary as their doctrine is violence. But the Indian government cannot sit back in silence, and needs to speak out with reassuring words to the scribes facing deep threat, and take firm and definitive action to ensure their safety and security.