New Delhi, July 12: Moving tributes have poured in for Saleem Sheikh, the bus driver who drove 50 Amarnath Yatra pilgrims safely through indiscriminate firing of bullets by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag district on Monday. However, a Gujarati language newspaper carried a report claiming Harsh Desai, the bus owner’s son, was behind the steering wheel when the attack took place. According to Saleem, Harsh Desai should be given credit as he didn’t let him get panicked when terrorists surrounded their bus and started firing.
“It was Harsh Desai, son of the bus owner, who was driving when 25 terrorists surrounded the bus and one of them tried to enter the vehicle. But the bus conductor pushed him out,” claimed a Gujarati language newspaper. However, passengers accounts made it clear that it was Salim who was behind the steering wheel. Even Harsh said that Saleem was driving the bus when terrorists attacked. “Salim drove for nearly two kilometers from the place of attack until he reached a small camp of security forces,” Harsh was quoted as saying. (ALSO READ: Meet Saleem Sheikh, The Bus Driver Whose Presence of Mind Saved Lives of 50 Amarnath Yatris)
Saleem, however, gives much of the credit to Harsh Desai. “Out of the blue, it started raining bullets…for a fraction of a second my mind went blank. But I heard Harsh yelling – Java do, Java do (keep moving, keep moving). I ducked and kept driving,” Saleem told Hindustan Times. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani praised Saleem for the bravery he showed and said he would recommend his name for a bravery award. “I want to thank bus driver, Saleem for saving lives of people when there was firing going. I will nominate his name for bravery award,” said the Chief Minister.
This is wrong to say that Harsh Desai was driving the bus, but it should be acknowledged that he didn’t let Saleem to lose nerve when militants opened fire at them. While Saleem escaped unhurt, Harsh took three bullets and is now under treatment.