The terror attack on the bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims on Monday evening would have resulted in loss of more innocent lives had it not been for the courage shown by Salim Mirza, the driver of the bus, who drove the yatris to safety amid indiscriminate firing of bullets by militants. The J&K Government has announced an award of Rs 3 lakhs to Salim for his exemplary bravery. The attack on the bus with 56 passengers aboard left seven dead and over 30 injured.
Realising that halting the bus will have dangerous consequences, Salim drove for nearly two kilometres on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway before he reached an army camp. “It was about 8 pm when the bus was surrounded by terrorists. They first fired from the front with the intention to eliminate the driver. I ducked sideways to escape the bullets and drove ahead. I do not know how I got the strength to go on at that time. Maybe Allah helped me and gave me strength,” Salim told The Indian Express as he stepped out of an IAF plane that brought the deceased as well as those injured in the attack to Surat, Gujarat, Tuesday afternoon. Salim, who also belongs to Gujarat, said he escaped unharmed in the incident while another passenger seated beside him was injured.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, too, lauded Salim and said he would recommend his name for a bravery award.
Munir Khan, IG, Kashmir was quoted as saying by One India: “I spoke to the passengers and they were all praise for the driver. He drove despite the firing and took them to safety. It made a lot of difference and many lives were saved. He did not stop. Had he stopped, more lives could have been lost.”
Salim’s family in Gujarat said they were proud of him. His cousin, Javed, told ANI that Salim called him around 9.30 pm informing the family about the firing on the bus. “He couldn’t save seven lives but managed to move 50 people to a safe place. We are proud of him,” Javed added.
The bus bearing the registration number of Gujarat was on its way from Baltal to Jammu when the militants opened fire. According to officials, the bus was not a part of the yatra envoy and hence was not provided security cover. IG Muneer Khan said the attack was carried out by Lashkar-e-Toiba militants.
Security has been beefed up along all routes in Anantnag. A high-level meeting was also called by the Centre to take stock of the situation. The centre has also appealed the pilgrims to follow safety protocols and cooperate with the authorities.