At around 8 pm last night, a tourist bus with pilgrims on the Amarnath Yatra was struck by a deadly attack at Botengo village near Anantnag, on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway. Seven yatris, including women, were killed and 15 people were injured.
The news has found prominent front-page space in the Big Four newspapers today, which are The Times of India, The Indian Express, The Hindu and Hindustan Times. All these papers have unambiguously labelled it a terrorist attack in the headline.
The body copies, however, across these papers use the word terrorist and militant interchangeably. TOI and The Hindu, for instance, use the word terrorist in the body copy uniformly. The Indian Express and The Hindustan Times, on the other hand, use the word militants.
IE has three front-page reports — one on the attack, another on why it crosses “a new red line for militants in Kashmir” and a third one based on inputs from the J&K police and CRPF that details how the bus had flouted rules and the 7 pm curfew on the movement of yatris.
Notably, TOI’s front-page report has an account of a survivor of the attack. A Gujarati resident Yogesh Prajapati (55), one of the passengers on the bus, is quoted to state, “We left Srinagar at 5 pm; two hours into the journey our bus got a puncture some 2km ahead of Anantnag. Just when the bus was ready to leave, the windscreen was shattered by a spray of bullets. Our driver Saleem bravely drove ahead even as terrorists continued to pump bullets into the bus till we reached the military camp.The Army rescued us, but… seven of 60 passengers lost their lives. It is a miracle the rest of us are alive.”
Both TOI and IE give varying figures on the number of women killed in the attack, the former has placed the figure at five, while TOI has stated that six out the seven people killed were women. HT also places the death toll of women yatris at five.
The news has found front-page space in Kashmiri dailies, though, most of them have chosen to dub this a militant attack.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack but the area where the attack took place has a presence of both Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba — both of which are listed as terrorist organisations by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in India.
The Rising Kashmir led with the headline, “7 Amarnath Yatris Killed In A Militant Attack”. The report gives the details of the sequence of events quoting police sources and states that the “militants initially attacked a police BP bunker.”
The report also prominently displays Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s statements, condemning the attack: “This is an assault on our values and traditions which we hold dear. We will leave no stone unturned to root out the perpetrators of this heinous crime.”
Greater Kashmir led with the headline, “6 Amarnath pilgrims killed in Anantnag attack.” In the opening paragraph, it stresses that the bus with yatris were caught “in crossfire between militants and government forces.”
The report quotes Kashmir range inspector general of police Muneer Khan to state that the attack was not aimed at yatris but government forces. The report also pointed out that the “bus driver had violated rules of the pilgrimage which state that no yatra vehicle should be on the Srinagar-Jammu highway after 7 pm as the security cover is withdrawn after that.”
Kashmir Observer did not carry the attack as its lead copy, but as a smaller report on the right side of the page, with the headline “Yatra attacked in Anantnag, 7 killed.”
It states that “the militants attacked an armoured car of the police and when the police fired back, the militants fled, firing indiscriminately.” A box item states that separatists Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik have expressed “deep sorrow and grief over the Killing of Amarnath Yatris in Anantnag and strongly condemned it”.
Kashmir Monitor led with the headline, “Seven yatris killed, at least 12 injured in Anantnag attack”.
There is another bit of news coming in from the Valley that found prominent space in Kashmir papers. The J&K police on Monday has claimed to have busted a Lashkar-e-Taiba module, which includes a non-Kashmiri man from Uttar Pradesh — Sandeep Kumar Sharma alias Adil. The second person was identified as Muneeb Shah of Kulgam. According to the police, they were involved in attacks on the Army and police and bank robberies.
Most of the Kashmiri dailies have chosen to describe the suspect as a Hindu man. However, Indian Express, which also carried this new report on its front page, informs that, according to the family “Sharma had converted to Islam and married a girl from Kashmir”. This news, however, has predictably drowned out in the mainstream Delhi media as the complete horror of what took place in Anantnag last night is emerging from the ground in Kashmir.
Update: Inspector General (IG) of police, Kashmir range, Muneer Khan has told ANI that the attack was carried out by LeT and masterminded by Pakistan terrorist Ismail.