SRINAGAR: Less than 24 hours after journalist Shujaat Bukhari and his two personal security officers were gunned down in Lal Chowk area in the heart of Srinagar, motorcycle-borne terrorists struck again in the city. Three young men opened fire on a police checkpost near SMHS hospital on Friday afternoon, barely 5km from Lal Chowk, injuring two cops and two civilians.
Police sources said the three fired indiscriminately, critically injuring head constable Habibullah. A cobbler on the road was also injured.
Elsewhere, a 17-year-old youth, Viqas Ahmad Rather, was killed and two other civilians injured after security forces allegedly opened fire at stone-pelters in Pulwama.
Meanwhile, amid a heavy downpour that added to the somberness and disbelief writ large on most faces, Bukhari was laid to rest by thousands of mourners in his ancestral hometown in Baramulla, 30km from Srinagar.
Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, former CM Omar Abdullah, state public works minister Naeem Akhtar, Congress leader Saifuddin Soz and many other politicians were among the mourners present at the funeral of the editor-inchief of Rising Kashmir.
Among the separatists, only Abdul Gani Lone, who is seen as somewhat of a dissenter within the Hurriyat, attended the funeral. But family members said Lone shared a close relationship with Bukhari’s father and was there in his personal capacity.
Massive funeral processions have been common in the case of militant commanders killed in the Valley, but the outpouring of grief for a journalist and peace advocate was unprecedented. “In the recent past, even Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s funeral did not draw as many mourners,” a Kreeri resident said.
One could see that the entire town and Srinagar city loved the affable man,” senior journalist Bashir Manzar told TOI. “Everyone was in shock and despair.” A close friend of Bukhari, Manzar said there were so many mourners that he could not even reach Bukhari’s family members to express his condolences. “I just watched his father and brother from a distance. I could not even look at the blank face of Shujaat’s son. It was heartbreaking,” he said, his voice choking.
Unlike the funerals of militants, which reverberate with slogans in favour of Islam, Pakistan and ‘azadi’, Bukhari’s procession was solemn and quiet, another local journalist said. “Most people were asking ‘why was he killed’ in whispers instead of discussing Kashmir politics at the funeral. Shujaat was buried according to full Muslim rites and all one could see was sorrow and fear,” he said. Bukhari’s two personal security officers who had been killed in the attack outside his office in Srinagar on Thursday were also buried on Friday. Both were wrapped in tricolor and laid to rest with full state honours.