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At Shujaat Bukhari memorial, Hamid Ansari says must question if free society being impaired

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India’s former vice-president calls Kashmiri editor a ‘thinking citizen’; Congress leader Manish Tewari says ‘Shujaat’s martyrdom should strengthen all of us’.

New Delhi: Former vice-president Hamid Ansari Wednesday said the country should “stop and question” if its open and free society is being impaired. He was speaking at a memorial service for slain senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari in New Delhi.

“Someone said many years ago that when freedom is in peril, the first symptoms are to be found in those who carry the voice and sentiments of the people to a larger audience.  Shujaat’s death is an example of it. It’s not the only example; we have had other instances including in Bengaluru. Therefore, as a people, we have to stop and think about where we are going. We used to take pride in being an open and free society. We still take have the pride but we need to stop and question. Is that open society being impaired?” Ansari said at the event organised by the Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals (BRIEF), a research and consultancy organisation in Delhi.

He also called Bukhari a “thinking citizen and a good editor”.

“The editor stood for sanity in very difficult conditions, knowing that whatever he said was being disliked by somebody or the other. This is what the greater challenge is. We should realise that we face a challenge. The challenges are to our most cherished freedoms such as the freedom to express an opinion. Because if that challenge develops further then it is not one editor, it is every citizen who is threatened by it,” Ansari said.

Friends, colleagues remember Bukhari

Many, including Kashmiri journalists, paid tribute to Bukhari, who was editor-in-chief of Rising Kashmir, a Srinagar-based newspaper, when he was assassinated on 14 June.

His former editor at The Hindu, Malini Parthasarathy, said the paper owes it to him for bringing Kashmir to The Hindu and The Hindu to Kashmir.  He had worked as the paper’s bureau chief in the Valley for 15 years.

Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief, ThePrint, said Bukhari carried the curse of neutrality.

“The biggest curse in journalism these days is neutrality for which you can be called a thief, a presstitute or a libtard. You can give people names but the most dangerous thing is to call people neutral. Neutral has become pejorative for a good journalist and a good journalist is the one who takes facts from both sides and reports or makes up her mind based on those facts,” Gupta said.

He also underlined the coverage of Kashmir by a section of the national media. “One doesn’t have to agree with whatever a Kashmiri says but listen… It is very important for us in the mainland and voices in Kashmir to keep talking. We must listen to each other,” Gupta added.

Congress leader, Manish Tewari said “the flag of courage and conviction” that Bukhari stood for must be kept flying. “We must keep the flag of fearlessness, courage flying. Shujaat’s martyrdom should strengthen all of us. It’s possibly glorious to die for one’s conviction than live a useless life,” he said.

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