Manoeuvring a 56-seater bus in the dark in mountainous terrain is daunting enough. But Salim Shaikh, 37, drove at full tilt for more than 2 km, with a flat tyre and bullets whizzing by, and saved the lives of over 50 Amarnath pilgrims.The terror attack killed seven and injured 21.
Shaikh said he realised it was a terrorist attack the moment a bullet pierced through the glass. “I slid down my seat and kept driving. I would see the road for a second or so and duck,“ he said. Applauding his courage, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani said Shaikh would be nominated for the annual bravery award.
Pallavi Abhyankar, 55, a lucky survivor from Maharashtra, said, “Had it not been for the driver, the toll would have been higher.“
Shaikh, who earns Rs.12,000 per month with Om Travels and takes trip-based assignments for other private bus operators, is being showered with cash rewards.
The Jammu-Kashmir government and Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board announced rewards totalling Rs.5 lakh. The government will give him Rs.3 lakh while governor N N Vohra, as chairman of Sri Amarnathji Shrine Board, announced a special reward of Rs.2 lakh.
Shaikh has four brothers and two sisters. His brothers Babu and Iqbal are also drivers and the former has been going to Amarnath for the past 15 years.