It is disturbing to realise that I have lost two journalist friends over the past year to political assassinations -- for that's what they are. Gauri Lankesh, editor of Lankesh Patrike in Bangalore, and Shujaat Bukhari, editor of Rising Kashmir in Srinagar, were 3,000 kilometres apart in this sprawling nation but their ideological distances may have been further apart. But what matters to me is that they both were journalists who got shot by those who did not like them to silence them -- or perhaps to create mischief.
A comment in Kashmir Observer speaking of Bukhari's killing, talks of a "game" according to a book on Kashmir on the killing of Western tourists in 1995 after their kidnapping. That was precisely when I got a first account of what the game was: an eerie mental labyrinth in a beautiful valley where mutual suspicions, murders, innuendoes to shift blames and propaganda exercises are enough to confuse the most alert of journalists. The game is as much about perception as about reality. Perhaps more, because all parties know that the manipulation of international diplomatic opinion and local public opinion are essentially core objectives because what is practised is violence of thought and body while what is preached are peace, civilisation and freedom.
In the case of Gauri's killing, the man who the special investigation team says shot her is a 20-year-old undergraduate activist of Sri Ram Sene, Parashuram Waghmore. "I knew you would come for me," he is said to have told the cops who came to get him. "The accused claim to be members of an unnamed organisation formed to eliminate those harming Hindu dharma. It operates like a terror cell,..." a sleuth investigating the killing is quoted as saying.
There are those who say the Hindu dharma stood for a liberal civilisation -- with Sanatana Dharma as its core. There are those who say Kashmir is an abode of loving Sufis. In both the murders, it is clear that those who speak for democracy, freedom, civilisation or whatever noble virtue they espouse, the operative motive of what they did is the quest for power, and the tools to get them are camouflage and murder.
Camouflage is lie. Murder means blood. Silencing others is the opposite of freedom, democracy or civilisation.
Bangalore or Srinagar, what has happened is a bloody quest for naked power.
I now take you to the deep symbolism in the names involved.
Parashuram was the figure in Indian mythology who slew his own mother to obey his father with a convoluted plan, and got eventually killed on account of his karma. It seems to me that like the mythological figure, Waghmore (if indeed he is convicted as per the police case) only slayed a mother figure. It is true she was a left-leaning activist, but the voices she stood for were often the lowest in the Hindu social hierarchy and to that extent she represented civilised souls.
The Arabic word "Shujaat" means "bravery" or "courageousness" -- and Shujaat Bukhari was an epitome of journalistic bravery in Kashmir. His voice stood in a manner not easily identifiable with any camp. He was respected by all, as the condolence messages show. He was killed on the eve of Eid-al-Fitr, the holiest of Muslim festivals. The blame game around his murder, if anything, speaks of his own credibility.
These two friends of mine were at some level speaking truth to power - the noblest of journalistic duties. Whoever killed them stood for lies, deceit, brutality and a ruthless quest for power. Not democracy or civilisation.
(Madhavan Narayanan is a senior journalist who has covered politics, diplomacy, business, technology and other subjects in a long career that has spanned organisations including Reuters, Business Standard and Hindustan Times. He is currently an independent columnist, editor and commentator. He is listed among the top 200 Indian influencers on Twitter. He tweets as @madversity)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)