The bodies of seven Amarnath pilgrims killed in the terror strike in Jammu and Kashmir were today brought to Surat airport along with the injured people in an IAF plane as angry protests were held across the state against the attack. A pall of gloom descended on the airport here as the Indian Air Force (IAF) plane landed. Terrorists last night killed seven pilgrims, including six women, and injured 19 as they struck a bus in Anantnag district. The last time the Amarnath yatra was attacked was in 2001 in which 13 people had been killed. The streets of cities and towns in the state witnessed angry protests as people burnt the effigies of ‘terror’ and demanded “revenge” from the Narendra Modi government, asking it to “punish Pakistan”.
Protests were held in Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat, Valsad, Mandvi (in Kutch) and Bharuch, among others. Effigies of ‘terror’ were burnt in Gandhidham and Mandvi towns in Kutch district and Surat. An effigy of a terrorist was hanged by protesters in Valsad. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, were among those present at the Surat airport to receive the bodies, the injured pilgrims and the survivors of the attack. The injured people and the survivors came out first from the plane, along with the defence personnel who escorted them to their home state from Srinagar.
The chief minister interacted with the pilgrims about the incident and also tried to know the condition of the injured. Ambulances were kept ready to take them to Surat hospital. Later, the bodies were brought out of the plane one by one. Rupani along with the deputy chief minister and other state officials paid homage to the deceased. The chief minister announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the kin of each of the deceased from Gujarat.
“51 passengers were travelling in the bus attacked by terrorists. Today, the IAF plane brought bodies of seven persons, 19 injured passengers and those who survived the attack. We have made adequate arrangements to provide medical treatment to the injured at Surat,” Rupani said. The deceased from Gujarat were identified as Hasuben Ratilal Patel, Surekhaben and Lakshimiben S Patal from Valsad, Ratan Zeenabhai Patal from Daman and Prajapati Champaben from Navsari. The other two deceased belonging to Maharashtra are Nirmalaben Thakor, a resident of Palghar, and Usha Mohanla Sonkar of Dahanu.
“We have also made arrangements to take the bodies of the deceased to their respective native places. The family members of the pilgrims from Gujarat who died in the attack would get Rs 10 lakh as compensation while the injured will get Rs 2 lakh from the state government,” said Rupani. Rupani also had a brief talk with the bus owner, Harsh Desai, and driver Salim Shaikh. While Desai sustained injuries, Shaikh survived the attack. Rupani lauded Shaikh’s bravery as he kept on driving the bus amid heavy firing from the terrorists.
“I offer my respect for Salim and Desai as I have learnt that they showed exemplary courage by driving the bus for almost 2 km despite heavy firing by terrorists. We will recommend Salim’s name for bravery award,” Rupani said. Desai, who received three bullet injuries in the attack, said, “I kept on instructing the driver, who was fortunately not hit by bullets, to keep on driving the bus till we see military personnel. We kept on taking the bus forward amidst the heavy firing.” “We took the bus two kms from the spot of the attack till we saw some military personnel and were able to save other lives,” he said.
“We got late in the night when we were returning from Amarnath and were attacked. It was a horrific scene which I will not be able to forget,” said an elderly woman who survived the attack. An alert was issued in Gujarat late last night after the news came in of the terror attack in which a majority of the victims were from the state. Rupani condemned the attack and said the country will never cowed down by such an ideology. “We condemn the terror attack. This is an act of cowardly people. India will never cowed down by such ideology,” he said.