Srinagar, June 14 (IANS) Senior journalist and Editor-in-Chief of English daily "Rising Kashmir" Shujat Bhukhari was on Thursday shot dead by militants outside his office here, police said.
State police chief S.P.Vaid said that it was around 7.15 p.m., the Iftar time, that Bukhari came out of his office in Press Enclave and was boarding his car when he was attacked by militants.
"Three motorcycle-borne militants came and fired at Bukhari and his guards. Bukhari and one guard were killed and another security guard critically injured," he said.
The killing drew wide condemnation from politicians across India and media organisations.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said: "Shocked & deeply saddened by the sudden demise of Shujaat Bukhari. The scourge of terror has reared its ugly head on the eve of Eid. I strongly condemn this act of mindless violence & pray for his soul to rest in peace. My deepest condolences to his family."
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, in a tweet, recited the Muslim prayer on hearing about a Muslim's death, and said: "Shocked beyond words. May Shujaat find place in Jannat & May his loved ones find strength at this difficult time."
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh termed it an "act of cowardice".
"The killing of @RisingKashmir editor, Shujaat Bukhari is an act of cowardice. It is an attempt to silence the saner voices of Kashmir. He was a courageous and fearless journalist. Extremely shocked & pained at his death. My thoughts and prayers are with his bereaved family," he said on his Twitter handle.
The Congress said it was anguished, with party President Rahul Gandhi terming Bukhari "a brave heart who fought fearlessly for justice and peace".
"He was a brave heart who fought fearlessly for justice and peace in Jammu and Kashmir. My condolences to his family. He will be missed," Gandhi said in a tweet.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said: "Anguished beyond words. Security situation in J&K has hit its nadir. Demand the Centre to take swift action to nab the killers. They can silence us but not our thoughts."
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday expressed shock.
"Saddened and shocked at the brutal killing of respected editor and senior journalist @bukharishujaat. With a few hours to go for Eid this is terrible," Banerjee tweeted.
Several journalist bodies condemned the killing and demanded swift action against the forces responsible for his killing.
Condemning what it called a "dastardly attack", the Editors Guild of India said that Bukhari was "a voice of moderation and a courageous, big-hearted editor who mentored a large cadre of young journalists from Kashmir".
"The guild calls upon the government of Jammu and Kashmir to take urgent steps to bring to book the culprits and ensure safety and security for the media in the state," it said in a statement.
It added that an attack on a journalist challenges the very foundations of a free press and vibrant democracy and more so in a state like Jammu and Kashmir that is going through militancy, and called upon the state and Central government to enhance security for all journalists in the state.
"Recent weeks have also seen threats of violence against many journalists in different parts of the country," it added.
The Press Club of India also "strongly condemned" the killing in the holy month of Ramadan and said that "forces inimical to restoring peace in Kashmir Valley had silenced a voice of reason, logic and peace".
"Press Club of India deeply mourns the loss of Shujaat Bukhari's life and extends its condolences to the bereaved family in this hour of crisis," it said in a statement.
It added that the "terror attack" showed that lives of journalists were not safe.
"Press Club of India has time and again underlined the threat to the lives of journalists working under difficult and challenging circumstances and demanded protection for them," it said.
The Indian Women's Press Corps, Press Association and Federation of Press Clubs of India also expressed "deep shock and outrage at the brazen murder" of Bukhari.
They said that Bukhari was a respected journalist known for his wide range of analytical writings on Kashmir and that he continued to write actively despite the death threats issued to him.
"His murder can only be viewed as yet another attempt to muzzle the media and the freedom of the press in the valley," a joint statement said.
Bukhari started his career as a young reporter with Kashmir Times and moved to The Hindu in the 1990s. Later, he established his own English daily Rising Kashmir.