SRI NAGAR: The Muslim driver of the Amarnath Yatra bus, which was attacked by militants in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district on Monday evening, has been hailed as a hero for driving the vehicle despite facing militant gunfire.
The driver of the bus, Sheikh Saleem Gafoor from Valsad in Gujarat, displayed alertness after the militants attacked the bus at Botengoo in Anantnag district, a police official said. Seven yatris were killed and 19 others were injured in the militant attack on the bus.
The police official said the driver of the bus continued to drive the bus even after militants were raining bullets on the vehicle. The official said militants had also fired towards the front side of the vehicle. “He (Saleem) braved the bullets and continued to drive the vehicle for more than a kilometer. He stopped the vehicle near Khanabal area,” he said. The state cabinet, which met here under the chairmanship of chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, praised Saleem’s valour and alertness. His alert response saved the lives of many pilgrims because he kept the vehicle moving even when he was under heavy fire from the front and the windscreen had been shattered, the state cabinet said. It announced an award of Rs 3 lakh in favour of the driver of the bus for exhibiting exemplary alertness and courage during the incident. State governor NN Vohra, who is also chairman of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), announced a special reward of Rs 2 lakh to the bus driver.
The state cabinet also sanctioned an exgratia of Rs 6 lakh in favor of Next of Kins (NoKs) of those yatris killed in the militant attack. It also announced Rs 2 Lakh to the grievously injured and Rs 1 Lakh to the injured in the attack. Governor Vohra conducted a review meeting of Amarnath Yatra on Tuesday morning. On behalf of the SASB which manages the yatra, he announced relief of Rs 5 lakh to next of kin of those killed in the incident, Rs 1.5 lakh to the grievously injured and Rs 75,000 for Yatris with minor injuries.
Cabinet condemns attack
The state cabinet condemned the militant attack on yatris and termed it an attack on Kashmiri’s syncretic culture and pluralistic values. While expressing deep sorrow and anguish over the loss of precious lives, the cabinet expressed its sincere condolences for the bereaved families and prayed for eternal peace to the departed souls.
The cabinet took note of the fact that the people of the state had with one voice condemned the dastardly act. It resolved that with the cooperation of the people, the culprits of this heinous crime would soon be brought to book and the fight against perpetrators of violence will be carried to its logical conclusion.
Amarnath Yatra continues
Undeterred by the militant attack on Amarnath pilgrims, the annual Amarnath yatra continued on Tuesday. CEO of Sri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), Umang Narula, said that 3,289 pilgrims had left Jammu on Tuesday for Baltal and Pahalgam yatra base camps in Valley.
He further said 4,836 yatris on the Baltal route and 5,776 yatris on the traditional Pahalgam route in the Valley had commenced their pilgrimage Tuesday morning.