Jammu Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti meeting with the Amarnath pilgrims who survived the Monday's militant attack in Anantnag, before they were airlifted to New Delhi, at the airport in Srinagar on Tuesday. Pic/PTI
As gunshots rang out in the darkness on a deserted Kashmir road, Pallavi Abhyankar's first thought was that firecrackers were going off near the bus in which she and other pilgrims were travelling. "It was only a few moments later that I realised the horror as I saw my fellow passengers hit by the terrorists' bullets," Abhyankar, 55, told PTI.
The Maharashtra native was one of the lucky survivors in last night's terrorist attack in Anantnag district that left seven people dead, including six women, and injured 19 others. The homemaker, who also runs music classes, said the bus driver's presence of mind saved many lives. "Had it not been for the driver, the toll would have been more," she said.
The driver sped the away amid the firing and reached a safe distance out of harm's way, saving the lives of many of the piligrims on the bus. The bus had over 50 pilgrims from Gujarat and Maharashtra, including 11 from Dahanu in Palghar district where Abhyankar is also from. Most of them were sleeping when their vehicle was attacked, she said. "The terrorists fired from the front and the right side of the bus. Most of those who died or were injured were sitting on the right side," she said. Abhyankar, who escaped unurt, is now on her way to Dahanu.
She said the bus left Katra at 3 pm on the way to Vaishno Devi. But the vehicle developed a problem and the bus stopped near Pampore at 5 pm. It resumed its journey at around 6.50 pm, said Abhyankar. "The firing happened between 8.20 pm and 8.30 pm," she said. After the attack, Army personnel took them to a safe location. The injured, among whom was the tour arranger, were taken to hospital, she said.
The survivors flew out of Srinagar today at 10.15 am by a special plane of the Indian Air Force and landed in Surat at around 1.30 pm. Mohanlal Sonkar, husband of Usha Sonkar who was killed in the terror attack, said his wife had called him yesterday. "She sounded very happy as this was her first trip to
Amarnath," he said. "I wasn't aware that the call would turn out to be the last one from her," the 58 year-old fruit-seller from Dahanu said.
Santosh Thakur, son of Bhagyabani Thakur, 48, said he came to know last night that his mother, who was on the bus, was injured in the attack. "This morning, my mother called and informed me that she was fine. She sustained a bullet injury on her hand," said Santosh, who is a relative of Nirmala Thakur, 50, who was killed in the attack.