The tragedy that struck Amarnath Yatra pilgrims could have been much worse had it not been for bus driver Salim Sheikh who braved all odds and held on to the steering wheel despite being fired upon by militants from all sides. A bus, bearing the registration of Gujarat fell under attack of terrorists who were on their way back from the Amarnath Yatra pilgrims in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag.
According one the survivors, Salim's presence of mind and courage in ensuring that he kept driving the bus while terrorists went on rampage outside, saved at least 50 lives. Risking his own life despite the indiscriminate firing, Salimm drove the bus for nearly two kilometres before stopping it near an Army camp. He had understood that stopping the bus only meant more damage.
“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 lives were saved. He did not stop. Had he stopped, more lives could have been lost,” IGP Kashmir Muneer Khan said.
Narrating the incident, bus driver Salim said, "There was indiscriminate firing going on, so I didn't stop and continued to drive the bus".
"God gave me strength to keep moving, and I just did not stop," he added.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani thanked Salim for saving the lives of people even when there was firing going on, adding that he will suggest his name for the bravery award.
One of the survivors of the attack said, “Terrorists started firing from all three sides. We didn't know what to do. Thanks to the presence of mind of the driver who drove the bus for 2-3 km and saved our lives”.
Salim's family back in Gujarat is equally prod of him. Javed said that his cousin Salim managed to move over 50 people to safe ground during the attack yesterday. “He told me that he did not stop there when terrorists fired, only looked for a safer spot for pilgrims. He couldn't save 7 lives, but managed to move 50 people to a safe place; proud of him,” he said.
The conductor, who was also injured in the attack, said that the driver asked him to shut the door so that the terrorists cannot barge in the bus, and drove the bus forward despite the indiscriminate firing.
Salim’s wife told India TV that their son had undergone a major ear operation days ago, still he went on to ferry the passengers as they trusted him. She said that this is the first time such an incident has happened.