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HomeHeadline newsTraumatized Indians recount deadly Kashmir attack on Hindu pilgrims

Traumatized Indians recount deadly Kashmir attack on Hindu pilgrims

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Survivors of a recent ambush in Indian-administered Kashmir recounted the harrowing moments when gunmen attacked a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims. The attackers continued firing even after the bus tumbled into a ravine, resulting in nine deaths and 33 injuries.

This brutal assault on Sunday evening is one of the deadliest in recent years, marking the first attack on Hindu pilgrims in the region since 2017.

“Bullets first hit the tire of the bus, causing it to crash into a tree. My head got stuck under the seat in front,” said Palit Gupta, a young girl among the injured. “My daddy brought me out as I was crying and shouting ‘save me’,” she shared from her hospital bed.

The attack occurred around an hour before Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in for a third term in New Delhi, as the bus returned from the Shivkhori shrine. Another injured pilgrim, Devi Prasad, recalled, “For a moment I thought I lost my life, but then I prayed, pledging to return to the shrine if I survived.”

Kashmir, which has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947, has been the site of an ongoing insurgency since 1989. Rebel groups demand either independence or a merger with Pakistan, leading to a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

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Police reports indicate that the driver was killed at the start of the shooting, causing the bus to veer off the road. “The terrorists continued to fire bullets on the bus for about five minutes after it had fallen into the gorge,” said Prasad Gupta, visibly traumatized. “We hid, and after they thought we were dead, they fled.”

Santosh Kumar Verma, another survivor, described how a gunman fired at the front of the bus, causing it to crash. “The gunmen continued to fire bullets for about 15 minutes after the crash,” he said.

In response to the attack, special forces, anti-terrorism units, and police launched a large-scale manhunt in the southern Reasi area, deploying drones to search the forested terrain. Home minister Amit Shah vowed that the “culprits of this dastardly attack will not be spared.”

Since 2019, when Modi’s government revoked the region’s limited autonomy, violence and anti-India protests have decreased significantly. However, rebel groups have increasingly targeted Indians from outside the territory. Recent clashes have resulted in the deaths of five rebels and an Indian air force corporal. Two suspected rebels were also killed in a firefight on June 3.

Despite the violence, the recent elections saw a 58.6 percent voter turnout, the highest in 35 years, reflecting a 30-percentage-point increase from the last election in 2019. India frequently accuses Pakistan of supporting and arming the rebels, a charge Islamabad denies.

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