NEW DELHI: Former vice-president Hamid Ansari on Wednesday said that the freedom to express one's opinion was under threat and called on citizens to meet this challenge head-on.
Speaking at a memorial event for slain journalist Shujaat Bukhari, Ansari said, "Bukhari's passing away is being mourned but mourning itself is not enough. We as a society should realise the challenge we face against our most cherished freedom - the freedom to express an opinion. It is said that the first symptoms of challenge to express is seen when people who speak honestly and candidly are punished brutally," he said.
Describing Bukhari as a good editor, good man and a thinking citizen, the former vice-president offered condolences to the slain journalist's family and said that if the challenges to the open society increased, not just one editor but every citizen would feel threatened by it.
Bukhari's brother-in-law and the current managing editor of the publication which Bukhari headed, Ayaz Gani, broke down in tears at the memorial. "Shujaat's parents lost a young son, my sister lost her husband and his two kids lost a father, but it is our duty to keep his principles alive. It is a wound which cannot be described in words," he said. Ansari also had a message for Bukhari's killers. "Those cowards managed to silence his voice but they cannot silence his thinking," he said.
The editor of Rising Kashmir, Shujaat Bukhari was gunned by assailants on June 15 in Srinagar, days before Eid. Days later, the Jammu and Kashmir police identified three suspects on CCTV and said they were affiliated to terror organisations.
The co-chairperson of The Hindu Group, Dr Malini Parthasarthy, described Bukhari has a dedicated professional and a splendid human being who lived and died for his values. "The Hindu was his national platform and he joined here to make sure that the voice of Kashmir was heard nationally. His passion and conviction was commendable. He managed to get Hurriyat leaders out of Kashmir and bring them all the way to Chennai," she said.
Speaking on the occasion, Congress leader Manish Tewari described him as a crusader for peace, and said he was yet to come to terms with the editor's death. "I come from a conflict-prone state as well and I know it is very tough to be forthright, outspoken and to have the courage to write what you think is right because it doesn't endear you to the terrorists and also sometimes doesn't endear you to the state. The fact that Bukhaari was cognizant of these perils and still continued to do it, unlike a lot of people, was the most eloquent tribute to the conviction of his courage. The best and the bravest of us have to pay the price for those convictions," the Congressman said.