"You don't scare us. More and more people will come for Amarnath Yatra now. I will come again and again too." This is a survivor's message to terrorists who attacked a bus ferrying Amarnath yatris in Kashmir.
Despite seeing his fellow passengers suffer injuries and pass away before his eyes, the spirit of an Amarnath yatri who was on board the fateful bus is intact, if anything, the attack has only made his grit to visit the holy shrine stronger. Yogeshbhai Prajapati, a resident of Valsad of Gujarat told OneIndia that he has been on Amarnath Yatra at least a dozen times and now he is willing to go back again without fear.
Within a span of two minutes, that seemed like a lifetime, more than half the pilgrims in the bus had suffered injuries in Monday's attack. "Including two drivers, there were 61 people on the bus. When the first few bullets flew we thought they were mere stones. After the firing continued indiscriminately, we understood that these were bullets. All we wanted to do was get out of that place as soon as possible and Salim did just that," said Yogeshbhai Prajapati, a survivor.
The troupe that left from Valsad in Gujarat had an 18-day plan in place. They offered prayers at the holy Amarnath caves on July 8 and had left to Jammu on July 10 at around 4.30 PM. A puncture had delayed them and the passengers maintain that contradictory to claims, they were registered with the board but only got delayed due to a flat tyre.
Pilgrims were happy about yatra being a success
"Just before the attack, we were discussing how well the yatra went off. We faced no difficulties in reaching the shrine. Not a single pilgrim fell sick. We were very happy that everything had passed off smoothly. That is when the first few bullets hit. The firing began from the right side, where the driver was seated. Most passengers sitting on the right side of the bus were injured grievously," Prajapati added.
Despite bullets raging at him, Salim, the driver of the bus, refused to stop and raced ahead. "The bus was moving at 60-65 kmph speed but when the firing began, the driver raced ahead. Getting out of that place was most important," Prajapati added. After driving for about 2 kms, the bus reached a security personnel camp. "The security personnel helped us get ambulances and shifted those injured to hospitals in Anantnag. Others were taken to the camp and provided water and care," recalled the survivor.
Pilgrims claim that they were neither stopped nor informed
The fateful bus moved around without cover and while the pilgrims blame the flat tyre, they also claim that security personnel gave them no warning. "We took the bypass route to make up time. We had lost a lot of time repairing the flat tyre and reaching Jammu by 7 was impossible. There was security personnel along the route at select points but none stopped us or warned us about the route," Yogeshbhai Prajapati said.
The pilgrims also claimed that while security checks were strong at camps, there was little or no security along the route. "Security along the route is very poor but I have seen security personnel follow stringent security checks before starting. We were not told whether we should take the city roads or bypass route. We were neither stopped nor warned about taking the bypass route," the survivor said.
"Attacks don't scare us"
Seven lost their lives to a cowardly terror attack and more than a dozen people sustained serious injuries but that hasn't broken the spirit of Amarnath yatris. "None should be afraid of going to Amarnath yatra, in fact, more and more people should go now," Prajapati said in conclusion.