If not for the presence of mind and courage of one man, Monday's terror attack on a bus ferrying Amarnath yatris would have claimed more lives. Salim, the driver of the bus that was ferrying the passengers emerged a hero by saving lives risking his own.
"I didn't stop the bus because there was indiscriminate firing was underway. I kept driving. God gave me the strength to keep moving and I just did not stop," said Salim reliving the moments that made all the difference to each person on the bus.
Salim drove through the raging bullets. Understanding that stopping only meant more damage, Salim continued to drive amidst the terror attack and took his passengers to safety. If not for his decision to drive to safety, the number of casualties could have been far worse. Despite the indiscriminate firing, Salim drove for nearly two kilometers before stopping near an army camp.
"I spoke to the passengers and they were all praises for the driver. He drove despite the firing and took them to safety. It made a lot of difference and lives were saved. He did not stop. Had he stopped, more lives could have been lost," Munir Khan, IG, Kashmir, told OneIndia. The passengers who survived the attack can't thank Salim enough. "We were asleep and were woken up by bullet sounds. He continued to drive and took us to safety. If not for him, it would have been worse," a passenger told the media.
Back home in Gujarat's Valsad, Salim's family is a proud lot. "He called me at around 9.30 PM and said that there was firing. Salim did not stop when terrorists fired but only looked for a safer spot for the pilgrims. He could not save seven lives but managed to move 50 people to a safe place. We are proud of him," said Javed, Salim's cousin.
The Jammu and Kashmir police also stated that reports of the bus not being registered were far from the truth. "The bus was very much registered for Amarnath Yatra and they were also in a convoy. "They had finished their darshan just two days ago and had plans of visiting a few tourist places. Yes, they were on a different route than the yatra route but the bus was registered and in a convoy," Munir Khan added. Arrangments have been made for the pilgrims to be airlifted from Kashmir.
At a testing time, Salim emerged the true hero for the yatris. Despite being in the line of fire, Salim chose to ferry the pilgrims to safety, his is a story of not just miraculous survival but of heroism.