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Muslim driver’s Presence of Mind saves 50 Amarnath Yatra Pilgrims during the Terror Attack

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Amarnath Cave Shrine
Pilgrimage to the Amarnath Yatra. Wikimedia
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Surat, July 11, 2017: Call it Salim Sheikh Gafoor’s sheer presence of mind or quick thinking, but it saved for sure over 50 Amarnath Yatra pilgrims from certain death during a terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir, though he himself attributes his heroism to the Almighty.

“The moments I heard the gunshots, I bent down a bit while holding the steering wheel and pressed the accelerator. It seems God gave me a lot of physical and mental strength and I began driving at around 70-80 km per hour,” Sheikh told media persons here on Tuesday while recalling his brush with death along with 50-odd passengers.

“Harshbhai, who was sitting next to me in the bus, was hit by a bullet. The passengers were screaming and asking me to stop the bus. But I didn’t, as had I applied the brakes even for a minute, I knew for sure that nobody in the bus, including me, would survive the attack,” said the Muslim driver, who has been hailed for saving the 50-odd Amarnath pilgrims.

ALSO READ: Terror Strikes Again: 7 Amarnath Pilgrims killed, 32 Injured in a Terror Attack in Anantnag

Expressing sadness over the death of seven pilgrims and injuries to 19 others in the attack on Monday night in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir, he recalled that each one of the 60-odd pilgrims in the bus was happy after a ‘darshan’ of Lord Shiva and their visit to Srinagar.

“Unfortunately, it all turned into a tragedy,” Sheikh said.

He said he kept on driving for 2-3 km before halting at the nearest military camp. Thereafter, the Army men took over and helped move the victims inside the camp and rushing the injured to nearby hospitals.

It was only after 9.30 p.m., more than an hour after the attack, that Salim called up his own family.

His cousin Javed Mirza told a local Gujarati television channel: “I am proud of him. Though it is sad he could not save seven pilgrims, but he was able to save more than 50 others.”

As for getting separated from the security convoy before the attack, Sheikh said: “We started from Srinagar around 4 p.m. in the evening but had to take a two-hour stopover as a bus tyre got punctured. We had otherwise decided to halt at a camp for pilgrims near the military camp.”

“Since we got delayed while getting the flat tyre mended, three-four other buses from Uttar Pradesh which were with us drove away with the security while we were left behind,” he said.

Sheikh, who spoke to several television channels on arrival in Surat by a special Indian Air Force aircraft along with bodies of the attack victims and survivors, said he could not see how many terrorists attacked the bus since it was already dark.

Condemning the attack, he said he would be happy if the terrorists involved were killed.

“They must be killed. The security forces personnel told us they will kill the terrorists. We are now waiting for the good news. I will be able to experience peace, sleep well and eat only on receiving the good news (of the killing of terrorists),” he said.

He said it was not the first time but his fifth trip to the holy cave of Amarnath, driving pilgrims on behalf of Om Travels of Valsad in south Gujarat.

The tour began on July 2 and the pilgrims were scheduled to travel to Amarnath and the shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi in Trikuta hills of Jammu and Kashmir, before returning to Valsad.

He said he had ferried the passengers for ‘darshan’ at the Amarnath cave on July 8 and was driving towards Katra on the fateful evening.

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who reached Surat airport to receive the bodies of the victims in the afternoon, was all praise for Sheikh and said his government would recommend his name for a bavery award to the Centre.

“I don’t know about that (bravery award) but driving is the only thing I know and only source of income for me. What else can I do? I will continue driving the bus. But for now, the scene (of the attack) keeps playing in front of my eyes,” he said. (IANS)

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Is surgical strike the ultimate answer to Pakistan fueled terrorism?

The new policy has sent a clear indication to Pakistan that the Indian government was not averse to precision attacks similar to last year’s cross-border strike on militants in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir

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In the new military doctrine, India has kept the options open for surgical strikes in response to “terror provocations.”
In the new military doctrine, India has kept the options open for surgical strikes in response to “terror provocations.” Wikimedia Commons
  • The attacks on Indian military bases in Sunjwan, Uri and Pathankot are not routine militancy
  • Like every time, this time also Pakistan denied its hand in the audacious terror attack on the Army camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Sunjwan area
  • A surgical strike can be carried out by sending Special Forces into enemy territory through various channels

On 10 February 2018, the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists barged into the camp of the 36 brigade of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry and started firing indiscriminately. The terrorists managed to sneak into the camp from the rear end of the base after a brief exchange of fire with the sentry guarding the periphery. The Sunjwan attack resulted in the death of five Army men, including two junior commissioned officers (JCOs), and the father of a soldier.

The attacks on Indian military bases in Sunjwan, Uri and Pathankot are not routine militancy. They replicate the acts of war. Without reacting in a knee-jerk manner to the terror attack, the Indian Army will come up with a befitting reply, the like of one which army gave after Uri attack.

Also Read: Gurdaspur Attack: Is India well equipped to deal with terror?

Although, intelligence agencies had informed of some kind strike on an Army or security establishment by Jaish-e-Mohammed. The threat was issued in view of the death anniversary of Afzal Guru, who was hanged on 9 February 2013, for the 2001 attack on Parliament House.

Like every time, this time also Pakistan denied its hand in the audacious terror attack on the Army camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Sunjwan area. On top of that, Pakistan showed the audacity to warn India against conducting cross-border strikes.

Surgical Strike could be achieved by air raids, airdropping special ops teams or a ground operation.
Surgical Strike could be achieved by air raids, airdropping special ops teams or a ground operation. Wikimedia Commons

In the new military doctrine, India has kept the options open for surgical strikes in response to any “terror provocations.” This sends the clear indication to Pakistan that the Indian government was not averse to precision attacks similar to last year’s cross-border strike on militants in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Now the question arises, as to why Pakistan was taken on the backfoot after Indian Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman condemned the attack and vowed to take revenge on the part of fallen heroes of Indian Army.

What is a Surgical Strike?

A surgical strike is meticulously devised swift and calculated strike on the specific target with an aim to neutralize the intended lot while ensuring minimum collateral damage to the surrounding areas. Such neutralization of the targets cut down the possibility of a full-blown war. Surgical strikes are part of India’s response to the ‘Cold War’ strategy followed by Pakistan and has already proved effective in foiling a new infiltration bid by terrorist groups across the LoC (Line of Control).

Also Read: US: Terrorist attack at Pathankot ‘heinous’

How is a Surgical Strike carried out?

A surgical strike can be carried out by sending Special Forces into enemy territory through various channels. It could be achieved by air raids, airdropping special ops teams or a ground operation. All three Indian armed forces, Army, Air Force and Navy have their separate special ops teams. The details operation like surgical strikes is understandably never been revealed by the Indian authorities. External intelligence like Military intelligence, Intelligence Bureau and R&AW are quite vital in carrying out these attacks and these special operation teams work closely with them.

Surgical Strike fulfils the need of a shot in the arm for enemies without causing serious military damage to the other side, thus limiting escalation.
Surgical Strike fulfils the need of a shot in the arm for enemies without causing serious military damage to the other side, thus limiting escalation. Wikimedia Commons

India’s Special Forces carried out surgical strikes against militant camps in Myanmar in June 2015, leaving 38 Naga insurgents dead and on similar lines, a surgical strike on Pakistan’s terror launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) was carried out. Both the operations had the backing of the central government and India’s muscular response was announced to the world.

Pakistan, however, rubbished India’s claim as a “figment of imagination”.

What is the need for Surgical Strike?

The surgical strike is said to be the best form of attack is political theatre. It fulfils the need of a shot in the arm for enemies without causing serious military damage to the other side, thus limiting escalation.

During the surgical strike on Pakistan, army picked their target well too and struck when the terrorists and Pakistan Army was caught virtually with their pants down. There was nothing wrong with the response which India gave to Pakistan, as the Indian Army struck in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), which rightfully belongs to India and whose freedom is something that India has a direct stake in. n no manner, that part belongs to Pakistan.

Also Read: India Avenges Uri Attack: Indian Army conducts surgical strikes on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan

Again, in a brilliant move, the army chose to target the terrorists who were being pushed into India by Pakistan from the terror launch pads. The international community also stayed united on the offensive surgical strike by Indian Army.

The global community condemns the terror in any form and India hit the terrorist in that manner only. During the crossfire at that time, two Pakistani soldiers were killed as they sought to defend the terrorists. It is no two ways theory that Pakistan army fuel full supports to various dreaded organizations and later pump them into India, in the name of ‘Jihad.’

Surgical strike humiliated Pakistan beyond imagination. It showed them up for their coward acts that they prefer to strike on sleeping people. Although, Pakistan came up with a full denial that any such surgical strike by Indian Army as claimed by India never happened. But it was the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif who admitted the Strike, which was again refuted by Pakistani Army.

During the surgical strike, army picked their target well too and struck when the terrorists and Pakistan Army was caught virtually with their pants down.
During the surgical strike, army picked their target well too and struck when the terrorists and Pakistan Army was caught virtually with their pants down. Wikimedia Commons

Conclusion

If this is the only language that Pakistan wants to talk, the Indian government and armed forces will take no lying down and every miss-adventure from any foreign organization will be dealt with the same fury. Since long, Pakistan has been testing India’s patience level on the doctrine of ‘Cold War’ strategy and now it’s high time that India should make them learn for their intended misjudgements.

Also Read: Pakistan asks India for more evidence regarding 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks

Whether a knife falls on a melon or a melon falls on the knife, it is always the melon that gets cut. In the proxy war waged by Pakistan, it is always the innocent people who have always been the worst sufferers.