Kashmiris risk lives to rescue Amarnath pilgrims

Braving curfew-like restrictions, local residents in this south Kashmir town risked their lives to rescue Amarnath pilgrims injured in a road accident near Sangam on the Srinagar-Jammu highway on Wednesday and ferried them to a nearby hospital.
Kashmiris risk lives to rescue Amarnath pilgrims
Photo: Aman Farooq/GK

Braving curfew-like restrictions, local residents in this south Kashmir town risked their lives to rescue Amarnath pilgrims injured in a road accident near Sangam on the Srinagar-Jammu highway on Wednesday and ferried them to a nearby hospital. The driver of the min-bus carrying the pilgrims, who was identified as Bilal Ahmad Mir son of Ghulam Hassan Mir of Ganderbal, died on spot after his vehicle met with an accident at Halmula-Sangam in curfew-bound Bijbehara area. One pilgrim identified as Pramod Kumar also lost his life while 28 others suffered injuries, two of them critical. The mini-bus collided with a truck early on Wednesday morning.   

Locals of Sangam and Halmula came out instantly after the accident and ferried the injured to Sub-district hospital Bijbehara in their own vehicles. Later people from Bijbehara town, who were mourning the death of a native Aamir Latoo, defied curfew and went to the hospital to assist the staff in treating the injured pilgrims. They also accompanied two of the critically-injured pilgrims to a Srinagar hospital.

"We didn't do any favor to the pilgrims. Being humans we are duty-bound to rescue people irrespective of their religious affiliations, as and when such accidents take place," said Muhammad Faisal, a local resident who was attending to the injured.

Later, people of town were also seen serving food and water to the injured pilgrims, at SDH Bijbehara

Varun Kushi, an injured pilgrim at SMHS hospital in Srinagar, said the road accident "brought us closer to the people of Kashmir."

The pilgrims who were travelling and got injured in road accident hail from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. "We planned to visit Katra before returning back to Meerut. So we hired the local mini-bus and started journey from Batltal to Jammu early morning," they said.  "Police and army men also came to accident spot, but didn't extend any sort of help to us. It was locals who, without wasting even a minute, rushed us to nearby hospital for immediate and timely treatment."

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti hailed the exemplary effort of the residents of Halmulla, Bijbehara and the adjoining areas who, amid trying circumstances, helped and evacuated the Amarnath Yatris injured in the road accident.

The Chief Minister while expressing grief and sorrow over the death of a local driver and a pilgrim in the accident, said keeping in with Kashmir's glorious traditions of communal harmony and brotherhood, the locals of Bijbehara, who themselves were mourning the tragic deaths in recent law and order situation, ignored their personal grief and rushed to the accident spot to rescue the injured pilgrims and shift them to the hospitals.

 "This is the uniqueness of Kashmir's distinct and valued culture, we must all fight to protect," Mehbooba said.

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