They attacked our parliament, they attacked our financial capital; they assaulted our armed forces, our soldiers time and again. They failed to break our spirit; India refused to succumb to fear and strife – the two elements terrorists have spent over a couple of decades trying to instill in us. Now, once again they have attacked our innocents, our pilgrims in one of the most cowardly acts of terror in recent times.
The Amarnath Yatra Attack
On Monday, 10 July, 2017, at about 8.20 pm, a 60 seater tourist bus bearing registration number GJ 09 Z 9976 was attacked by a group of terrorists. On board the bus were pilgrims who were on their way back after a pilgrimage that is deemed very important by Hindus across the country – the Amarnath Yatra. The bus had broken down on its way from Srinagar to Jammu and had been delayed by over 2 hours. The highway is a highly sensitive one and security is provided to all vehicles plying till 5 pm. Beyond this time, buses are not expected to ply on this route.
As this pilgrim bus neared Khanbal, a group of gunmen opened fire on the bus and its passengers. 7 pilgrims succumbed to the bullet wounds and 19 others were injured. The pilgrims on board the bus were largely from Maharashtra and Gujarat. Immediate reactions suggested that the attack was a religiously motivated one.
Bus Driver Acted Saviour
They say, terror knows no religion. True as that may be, courage and humanity too, know no religion. The one person who certainly comes across as the hero of the hour is Sheikh Salim Gafoor Bhai, the driver of the bus that was attacked on 10 July. Even as the bus was surrounded by terrorists and the first bullets whizzed past, Salim gauged the danger that he and the rest of the passengers were in. He remained resolute and refused to stop the bus or to slow down till he reached a police camp. He drove through what has been describes by other passengers as a “pitch dark” road. Investigative reports suggest that the bus was attacked twice within a distance of metres.
Salim is reported (by news agencies) to have said, “God gave me strength to keep moving, and I just did not stop. The firing went on and on, so I didn’t stop. I kept driving.” The country is in awe of the exemplary courage and presence of mind shown by this man in the hour of crisis.
The militants had largely attacked the bus to its right, thus causing maximum damage and injuries to the passengers who were seated on the right hand side. We can merely estimate the gravity of the situation and the extent of losses had Salim succumbed to fear and stopped the vehicle in the midst of the attack.
In appreciation of Salim’s bravery, the Jammu and Kashmir government and Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) announced separate rewards. The rewards worth a total INR 5 lakh will soon be handed over to Salim.
More Attacks In The Valley
The pilgrim bus on its way to Jammu was also not the only attack in Anantanag District (Jammu and Kashmir) that night. A police bunker in Batengoo and a police naka in Khanabal also came under attack the same night. Many rounds of fire were exchanged between the police and the militants that night.
Jammu and Kashmir police and security personnel are investigating the Amarnath Yatra attack and from early reports it is clear that the infamous terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is behind the attacks. It has also been reported that LeT commander and Pakistani national Abu Ismail is the mastermind behind this attack. Three other terrorists of Pakistani origin are also believed to have been involved in the cowardly attack. The police and security agencies have launched a massive man hunt to locate the whereabouts of the militants.
The Lashkar-e-Taiba is one of the largest terrorist groups active in the continent. It is responsible for a number of vicious attacks in India including the 2001 Indian Parliament attack and the 2008 Mumbai attacks. It is also believed that the terrorist outfit is supported by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s intelligence agency.