'This is cruelty': Survivors of Indian shelling on passenger bus recall frightening encounter

Updated November 24, 2016

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The passenger bus that was targeted by Indian troops. ─ Photo by author.
The passenger bus that was targeted by Indian troops. ─ Photo by author.

Raja Ghulam, the driver of a passenger bus targeted by Indian troops near the Line of Control on Wednesday, showed immense bravery and presence of mind as his coaster was hit by Indian shelling and despite being injured, was able to prevent further loss of life.

Raja Ghulam, driver of the passenger bus targeted by Indian troops. ─ Photo by author.
Raja Ghulam, driver of the passenger bus targeted by Indian troops. ─ Photo by author.

"I received an injury to my neck but just kept one hand on it, speedily driving the bus with the other, and parking it behind nearby shops. If I had lost hope, nothing would have been left," Raja Ghulam told DawnNews.

At least nine people were killed and 11 others wounded when Indian troops targeted the passenger coaster in Azad Jammu and Kashmir's Lawat area. A total of three soldiers and 10 civilians were killed, and 18 others injured in cross-border firing and shelling on Wednesday.

Read more: 9 killed as Indian troops target passenger bus near LoC

"There were 21 passengers aboard the bus. Initially, Indian troops were firing with small arms near the Kanari area. After that, rocket launchers were fired," Ghulam claimed.

"When the victims were being taken away in ambulances, the Indian troops opened fire on us once again but we remained protected," Ghulam, who was admitted to Muzaffarabad's Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Hospital for treatment, recalled.

A former journalist and a government officer who were also injured in the incident told DawnNews that "the bullets came so suddenly, we were frightened by their pattering [sound]."

"A few people were killed before our eyes in the heavy firing. The driver, despite being injured, continued driving the car and parked it near the shops. If he hadn't, we would have all died."

The ambulance that was targeted by Indian shelling. ─ Photo by author.
The ambulance that was targeted by Indian shelling. ─ Photo by author.

Another eyewitness, Shahid Basir, boarded the bus from Lawat and was injured in the firing. "They started firing at us suddenly. In the firing by the Indian troops some were killed while others were injured, but then I lost consciousness. We were pulled out of the bus, but then bursts were fired at the ambulances that we were put into."

One Jawed Sultan said, "We did not have the slightest expectation that something like this could happen. When the firing started, we were shocked. I received bullets in my leg and I am still feeling frightened."

Another passenger who was injured asked, "We were just passengers, we had no enmity with anyone. Why were we targeted? Even wars have some rules but yesterday innocent people were targeted, which is cruelty."

Asim, a resident of Neelum Valley who was visiting one of those injured in the incident at a hospital said, "We are with the army. In Neelum Valley, our pain and suffering needs to be understood. The government and other institutions should take notice of it."

Fear and despair in Neelum Valley

Speaker of the legislative assembly in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Shah Ghulam Qadir said, "Ground communications with Muzaffarabad have been cut off due to which millions of people have been trapped."

"Due to firing by Indian forces, communication systems in Neelum Valley have been destroyed. Fear and despair rule the valley."

A Resident of Meerpura, a village in Neelum Valley, Raja Yousuf, said, "My entire family is in the village and I have no idea what state they are in."

Another resident of the valley, Arsal Khan Siddiqui, said that the situation in the valley is "very bad".

"Every individual wants to be safe from firing by Indian troops but resources are lacking and the weather is also extremely cold."