Srinagar: Seven Amarnath pilgrims from Gujarat, six of them women, were killed and 32 injured in a terrorist attack on their bus in Anantnag on Monday, July 10.
The last time an armed attack was staged against the annual yatra which draws lakhs of Hindus from across India to the state was on August 1, 2000, when around 30 pilgrims and local porters were killed near Pahalgam
On Monday night at around 8:20 pm, the pilgrims’ bus (GJ09Z 9976) was fired on near Khanabal when it was on its way to Jammu.
Police said the bus was not a part of the yatra convoy which is being provided elaborate security. It was not registered with the authorities either.
The terrorists first attacked a bullet-proof bunker of the police at Botengoo, a police official said. After the police retaliated, the gunmen moved on and fired on a police picket near Khanabal.
When the police retaliated, the militants fled, firing indiscriminately in which the bus carrying the yatris got hit.
While these police accounts suggest the yatris were a secondary target, some of the surviving pilgrims were quoted by television channels as saying the terrorists had in fact directly targeted them
The bus had come from Sonamarg. The pilgrims were on their way back after visiting the Amarnath shrine.
The police claimed the bus driver had violated rules for the pilgrimage, which state that no yatra vehicle should be on a highway after 7 pm.
Condemnation by leaders
The attack drew swift condemnation from Prime Minister Modi and all opposition leaders, as well as politicians across the spectrum in Jammu and Kashmir.
In a series of tweets, Modi said India “will never get bogged down by such cowardl yattacks & the evil designs of hate.”
Congress president Sonia Gandhi called for decisive action against the perpetrators. “The attack on the devotees of Lord Shiva is a crime against humanity. The entire nation is in shock,” she said in a statement. The government should ensure the safety of the pilgrims, she said.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq of the Hurriyat Conference strongly condemned the killing of the yatris, calling them “respected guests.”
While condemning the attack, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury also said the BJP-led government at the Centre must be held accountable for its “mishandling” of the situation in J&K.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi also asked the prime minister to accept responsibility for what had happened and never allow such an attack again.
Former J&K chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah condemned the attack and those on Twitter who were trying to make light of the killing of the yatris by describing the incident as one where tourists had been killed in cross-fire between the police and militants.
He also urged the Central government to beef up security for Kashmiri students and migrants in other parts of India as a precautionary measure to forestall any retaliatory violence against them.
Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani said his government would provide every assistance to the victims’ families.
(With agency inputs)
Note: This is a developing story