The bus, which came under attack in Anantnag, was cleared to drop pilgrims in Baltal for Amarnath Yatra trek on July 17. But the trip was advanced to July 7 and 8 since there were fewer pilgrims, bus owner Harsh Desai’s father Jawahar Desai said.
“This year, the rush of pilgrims for Amarnath is less, therefore turn of pilgrims for later dates were readjusted,’’ he said. Jawahar added that they had bought the bus in December. Since there was a loan against the bus, Harsh was to pay the installments to repay it before the ownership could have been transferred in his name. He paid the remaining amount in cash.
Whenever Harsh needed to organise a tour outside Gujarat, he would get permission in the name of Sanjay, who had sold him the bus, from Himmatnagar Regional Transport Office. Sanjay said that this is quite common in travel industry in Gujarat and that there was nothing unlawful about it. Himmatnagar RTO in-charge S R Patel supported his assertion. Sanjay, who owns four buses, said that he does business of only renting out buses to tour organisers. “Earlier I used to organise tours. But now I have stopped. I used to organise tours for Amarnath Yatra also. But since last two years, I have stopped it because there is lot of tension in Jammu and Kashmir,” Sanjay said.
Yogesh Prajapati, who organised permits for the passengers, showed The Indian Express permits of Laxmiben Patel and Laliben Patel. The two were travelling as cooks. They were given permits in April and were to reach Baltal on July 17 for the Amarnath shrine trek. Laxmiben died in the attack. Laliben is undergoing treatment in Anantnag.
The bus began its journey from Idar in Sabarkantha. It halted in places like Pushkar, Amritsar, Baltal and Srinagar. It was to return to Idar on July 23.