The murder in broad daylight of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari, editor-in-chief of the English daily Rising Kashmir, has shocked the entire media fraternity in the Valley -- and has them wondering whether the killers will ever be brought to justice.
Bukhari is not the first journalist who has fallen to the bullets of unidentified assassins in Kashmir. So far, none of the killers has been cuaght and punished.
The first media person to be killed in Kashmir was Lassa Koul, director of the local Doordarshan Kendra. Koul was kidnapped and subsequently killed in early 1990.
In April 1991, Muhammad Shaban Vakil, editor of the vernacular daily Al-Safa, was killed in his office in Srinagar city.
In September 1995, Mushtaq Ali, a photojournalist with the AFP wire service, was killed in a parcel bomb explosion in the office of Yusuf Jameel, the then BBC correspondent in Kashmir. A burqa-clad woman had delivered the parcel bomb at Jameel's office in Srinagar's Press Enclave.
On January 1, 1997, Altaf Ahmad Faktoo, an anchor of the local Doordarshan Kendra was killed.
On March 16, 1997, freelance journalist, Saidan Shafi was killed in Srinagar.
In February 2003, Parvaz Muhammad Sultan, who ran a local news agency, was killed in his office, again in Srinagar's Press Enclave.
Bukhari himself had survived two assassinations attempts before the government provided him personal security guards.
Bukhari had just come down from his office and boarded his car around 7.15 p.m. on Thursday in Press Enclave when three assassins came on a motorcycle and fired indiscriminately at his car.
Bukhari and his two security guards, Hameed Chowdhary and Mumtaz Awan, were killed in this attack after which the assassins escaped.
Bukhari's murder has been widely condemned by everybody.
Hardline senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani and chairman of Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umer Farooq joined the mourners, saying that the murder was totally unacceptable and needed to be condemned by everybody.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, state Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister Omar Abdullah, state secretary of CPI-M Yusuf Tarigami, members of the media fraternity and others across Kashmir society have condemned Bukhari's killing.
The family has taken the slain journalist's body to his ancestral north Kashmir Kreeri town in Baramulla district where he will be buried later on Friday.
The authorities have released the CCTV footage of three militants believed to be the Bukhari's killers.
Police has appealed people to help in bringing the killers to justice.
Will Bukhari's killers be brought to justice? This question is now haunting the media fraternity in Kashmir for whom discharge of professional duties is fraught with grave danger lurking at every nook and corner here.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at email@example.com)