May 2006 News

Bengali Tourists Under Attack In Kashmir

31 May 2006
The Times of India

Srinagar: They were probably the softest of soft targets. They had saved, planned, and finally boarded the Jammu Tawi Express from Sealdah on May 22 to see a bit of Kashmir, now being touted as a hot tourist destination. On Wednesday evening, they were going to see that landmark - the Dal Lake. It took just two grenades to stop that. Around 6.30 pm, a bunch of terrorists chucked grenades at two buses carrying the Bengali tourists as they drove towards Dal Lake. At least 35 tourists, most of them from Kolkata,were injured. Three were reported to be critical at a Srinagar hospital. The two grenade attacks came within five minutes of each other, the first around Srinagar's Jan Bakery near the lake and the other at Badhyari Chowk, the entry point of Dal Lake, witnesses said. 'Three to four young boys threw grenades at the buses. The grenades fell inside, smashing through window panes,' said the driver of one of the buses. 'I looked back and saw the passengers in pools of blood, screaming,' he said. According to the drivers,who refused to give their names for fear of terrorist retaliation, the tourists were returning to Srinagar after a day trip to the ski resort town of Gulmarg. CPM MP Md Salim, who reached Srinagar in the evening, said: 'There is tight security and even VVIPs are not being allowed into the hospitals. I have decided to visit the injured not as an MP, but as a common tourist... I have asked my men to be with them.' The MP said 22 of the injured are from Kolkata and its surroundings. CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has asked home secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy to stay in touch with the J&K administration. The families of the injured are still in shock. Banshi Badan Kar learnt of the attack while returning from a temple. His brother Raghu Raman Kar was part of the group. He tried frantically to call up the helpline numbers flashed on TV but in vain. Meanwhile, neighbour Vivek Bose got a call from Raghu and rushed to the Kar house to break the news. 'Raghu was in a state of trauma. He somehow managed to say that he and his daughter were fine. But his wife Leena has suffered splinter injuries in her leg.' An official of tour organiser Rocky Travels said the tourists would have been miles away from Srinagar on Wednesday. According to the original schedule, they would have arrived in Srinagar two days earlier and left late on Tuesday. But something unforeseen happened. Manmohan Singh made a trip for a round table with separatist leaders on May 24-25. 'Tourist movement was restricted for security reasons. The trip, originally slated from May 24, was deferred to May 26. Had this not occurred, the team would've left Srinagar for Gulmarg on Monday,' she said. Wednesday's attack was the third against tourists in 10 days. A tourist from MP and a bus driver were killed at Soura on May 23. Two days later, four tourists from Surat - including two eight-year-olds - died when terrorists blasted away at a bus with grenades near Nishat Garden, hours after the PM flew out after the round-table conference. The attacks showed a clear pattern that has emerged in J&K. Terrorists, who claim to protect Kashmir's religiosity and culture, have now decided to spook tourism, which was on the road to recovery and giving the local economy much-needed oxygen.


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