As with any other high-profile murder in Kashmir, Shujaat Bukhari’s killing has thrown up a number of claims long before real evidence has been publicly presented. Two articles—one in The Quint and one in Asia Times—have suggested that the veteran journalist’s leading role in a Track Two conference led to his assassination.
Track Two conferences are meeting places for people to discuss ideas. They are not political processes in themselves, but function primarily as wider support structures. This is why they are tolerated by multiple parties who are in conflict with each other. It is also why it is wildly implausible that merely attending one, or organising one, would lead to being murdered.
From the end of 2009 to the end of 2015, as part of an international organisation, I managed the funding, design and monitoring of a series of peacebuilding initiatives in Kashmir as well as between India and Pakistan. I did not lead or organise these initiatives. Due to the rules under which they are held—one can talk about them, but not name names without explicit permission—I cannot identify the actors, but I can write about the processes themselves.
The initiatives I was involved in hosted multiple conferences like the one that is said to have led to Shujaat’s murder. These included high-level conferences attended by serving cabinet ministers, advisors to prime ministers, as well as former decisionmakers with ranks such as National Security Adviser, Chief of Army Staff, head of intelligence agencies, foreign secretary and ambassador. Important dissident leaders also attended these events.
All of these conferences discussed ceasefire violations along the LoC, explored ways to decrease violence between all actors, and suggested how to promote peace constituencies: topics similar to those discussed at the last Track Two conference Shujaat attended. They all ended with a formal statement calling on the Indian and Pakistani governments, as well as regional governments and other decisionmakers, to take actions towards peacebuilding—statements very similar to the one said to have led to Shujaat’s murder.