'He was wearing military fatigues. He was tall. But I could not see much.'
'When the terrorist tried to enter, I kicked the door and closed it.'
Mukesh Vitthalbhai Patel, the cleaner on the bus that was attacked in Kashmir on July 10, expresses his anger to Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore.
Photograph and video: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com
What happened when you started from Srinagar on July 10?
About 5 km from Srinagar our bus had a puncture. We stopped at a mechanic's who repaired the puncture in the tyre.
When the driver was fitting the tyre on the bus, our owner told him to double check if everything was alright. But he did not check and fitted the tyre.
Later when he began to check the tyre pressure we discovered that air was leaking again because of the problem in the tube valve.
He then removed the tyre and repaired the valve leakage. Because of this we wasted almost two hours at the mechanic's shop instead of one.
An hour-and-a-half or so after we left the mechanic's shop we were attacked by the terrorists.
What did you do when you heard the sound of firing?
Even I did not know that bullets were being fired.
When my owner's son (Harsh Desai) was hit by a bullet he warned us it wasn't firecrackers, but bullets.
Then another round hit the windshield because of which nothing could be seen in front of the bus.
Harsh then immediately asked me to shut the door.
As soon as I went towards the door, one man (a terrorist) tried to enter the bus.
The bus wasn't moving at high speed.
When he tried to enter, I kicked the door and closed it.
Harsh then asked (the driver) Salim to drive speedily and not to stop anywhere except at an army camp.
Did the terrorist not try to shoot you?
I did not get a chance to see that. He was almost in front of me trying to board the bus.
How did he look?
He was wearing military fatigues. He was tall. But I could not see much.
Was it very dark?
It wasn't too dark. It must have been 7.45, 8 pm.
When did you realise you too were hit?
When we went to the army camp... I did not know that I was hit.
Blood was oozing through my cheeks... ek dum khoon se latpat...
Then I realised I was hit and was taken to the hospital and doctors stitched the wound.
How was Harsh doing at that time? Was he conscious?
Yes, he was conscious. He too was getting stitched.
We were all conscious when we reached the army camp.
All those injured were taken care of and others were given good facilities to rest.
Those critical were shifted to hospital.
Where was Harsh when firing began?
He was in front of me.
Who was sitting in the front?
We were four people in the front.
My owner Harsh, driver (Salim), the caterer (Yogesh Prajapati, who is actually the tour manager) and I.
Where did the firing start from?
Two bullets were fired from the front first and then as the bus moved...
The bullet did not hit the driver?
It was our good fortune that the driver was not hit.
If that had happened, then that terrorist would have entered the bus and would have fired more.
Nobody would have been left alive?
Koi nahi bachta.
You are very sure that one terrorist was trying to enter the bus, but you closed the door?
Yes. He must have had a gun for there was more firing on the right side as the bus moved at speed.
There were three people... perfect (exactly) three people... judgement ek dum (that's my confirmed judgement)...
The firing continued as the bus moved along and so those sitting on the back seats were killed.
What would be your message for the terrorists?
I will rip them apart if they come before me.
If you have the guts, come out in the open and fire.
Why take advantage of darkness and attack?
Fight openly if you have to!
Why are you killing old people?