Had it not been for Salim Sheikh, it is likely that more Amarnath pilgrims would have died in the terrorist attack on Monday. The bus driver from Gujarat displayed exemplary courage and presence of mind as he powered through a volley of bullets sprayed by heavily armed terrorists at the vehicle, saving the lives of several people who were on board.
According to some media reports, Salim saved the lives of 50 people.
"God gave me strength to keep moving, and I just did not stop," Salim told ANI.
The bus that Salim was driving had on board pilgrims from Gujarat and Maharashtra. They had left for Kashmir from his hometown of Valsad in Gujarat on 2 July. Seven pilgrims were killed and at least 19 were injured after terrorists opened fire on the bus in the district of Anantnag, while they were making their way from Srinagar to Jammu.
Salim ducked and kept driving even as three bullets hit the bus owner, Harsh Desai, who was sitting next to him. "As we were on the way, we heard the sound of bullets like someone was bursting crackers. As we realized it was a terrorist attack, I asked Sheikh to keep driving until we reach a military camp. He kept on driving for two kilometers," Desai told reporters after they landed in Gujarat.
Speaking to The Hindu, Salim said, "God gave me strength and courage to drive on amidst firing from right side. There were possibly three to four terrorists firing. We could not see anything as it was pitch black."
"As the firing continued, people were shouting, crying and screaming to stop but I just somehow kept driving for one kilometre. I ducked twice by bending over on driving seat but did not stop till I saw a military camp," he said.
Salim told NDTV, "God gave me strength to keep moving, and I just did not stop. The firing went on and on, so I didn't stop. I kept driving."
Salim drove for around one or two kilometers before he stopped the bus at an army camp.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has said that he will nominate Salim for a bravery award. The Jammu and Kashmir government has announced a ₹3 lakh award for Salim. The Amarnath Shrine Board has also announced an award of ₹2 lakh.
The Jammu and Kashmir police have pinned the attack on the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group.
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