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Need to ask if our freedom is in peril, says Ansari

NEW DELHI: Former Vice President Hamid Ansari on Wednesday said that a question was staring at all of us if the open society “we used to take pride in” was facing a serious existential threat amid “voices of sanity” being silenced.

“Mourning is just not enough. We should challenge…if our freedom of expression is being challenged and if that is really facing a challenge then every citizen is threatened,” Ansari said at an event here to pay tributes to Kashmiri editor Shujaat Bukhari who was shot dead outside his Srinagar office on June 14.

The former Rajya Sabha Chairman said Bukhari stood for sanity and that was what put him in a difficult condition.

“A good man, good editor and a thinking individual was snatched from us so brutally. We have to ask why.” he said, adding the first victims of such a situation become those who carry voices of people to larger audiences.

“Shujaat’s death is an example. Not the only one example. Those who speak honestly and candidly are prevented (from speaking) in the most brutal manner. We have a case in Bangalore,” Ansari said, referring to the last year murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh who was shot dead in her home on September 5.

“We have to ask ourselves what we are going through. We used to take pride in being an open society and we still do. But we need to stop and ask if that society is in peril.”

Malini Parthasarthy, the co-chairperson of The Hindu Group, speaking at the event organised by consulting firm Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals (BRIEF) said Shujaat’s “assassination is a chilling reminder of the vested interests and anti-democratic forces who don’t want democracy or peace flourish in Kashmir”.

She said we needed to ask why the situation was being allowed to slide and why all the peace dividend that had accumulated because of earlier Kashmir initiatives had been wasted away.

“Clearly the answer lies in the continuing indifference of the Modi government to the terror and continuing alienation of the ordinary Kashmiri buffeted between the security forces and the terrorist groups.

“We must stand up to the vested interests on both sides. We owe it to Shujaat and the people of Kashmir for whom we fought so long and hard to isolate the hardliners and fascists, and build public momentum for the revival of a political process and democracy in Kashmir.”

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