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The bus driver who saved his passengers from terrorists

By A Ganesh Nadar
August 18, 2015 11:33 IST
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In a special series, Rediff.com looks at India through the lives of its people.

Today: Nanak Chand Sharma, the brave bus driver who did not lose his nerve when terrorists attacked his bus, and drove 76 passengers to safety.

Locals flee the terror site

IMAGE: Locals near the site of the gunfight at the Dina Nagar police station in Gurdaspur district. Photograph: Munish Sharma/Reuters
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On 27th July, I started my trip at 3.40 am from Janial village (in Gurdaspur district). It is the first bus to start in the morning. It goes to Chandigarh. There were 76 passengers in the bus.

At around 5.30 am I was near Dina Nagar on the Pathankot-Gurdaspur Highway. At 5.35 am, as I drew close to the Dina Nagar police station, I saw a car parked on the road. Its lights were focused on the police station wall. The car doors were open.

There was a man standing on the road. He had tied a black cloth on his face and had a machine gun in his hand. He waved his hand to stop the bus.

We belong to the border area. I have seen images of terrorists. I realised that he was a terrorist.

Even my conductor understood that he was a terrorist. He blew his whistle twice, which is a signal to start the bus -- don't stop, just carry on! I stepped on the accelerator and we sped away. I kept driving.

The terrorist fired at the bus. The bullets hit two passengers. The terrified passengers started screaming. I acclerated further and drove to Gurdaspur which was 16 kms away, at full speed.

Policemen in a gun-battle with terrorists in Dina Nagar, Punjab

IMAGE: The terrorists were killed after a day-long gun battle. Photograph: Munish Sharma/Reuters

I took the bus straight to the Civil Hospital. They treated the injured passengers. By that time, the police had heard the news and had arrived at the hospital.

The unhurt passengers were transferred to another bus and sent to their destination.

I went to the Gurdaspur city police station and filed a report about what had happened.

I cannot imagine what would have happened if I had stopped the bus. Many passengers would have been killed and maybe my life too would have been in danger.

I did not feel any fear. I reacted instinctively, my gut instincts saved the day. I am happy and proud of the way I reacted that day.

People have called and congratulated me from all over the country. The passengers also repeatedly thanked me.

So far I have not received reward, but the government has announced an award.

Punjab Roadways driver Nanak Chand

IMAGE: Mr Sharma has been a driver for 24 years.

I am 47 years old and I have been driving for 24 years. I have been employed under the contract system with the Punjab State Transport. I have been working for them for the past five years. I have requested them to make me a regular employee.

Earlier I was a truck driver. I would drive to Mumbai, Pune and Shirdi regularly.

I have three children. My elder son is 21 years old. He is studying at an ITI. I have a 17-year-old daughter who is in Class 11. My younger son is 14 and is studying in Class 8.

My wife looks after my home and my mother lives with me. I have my own home, but I do not have any other land. I belong to Samrala village in Pathankot district, Punjab.

My family and my villagers are very proud of me. It gives me a nice warm feeling. I am happy today.

I hope such incidents do not happen in the future.

I hope they recommend me for a President's medal for bravery because I am a civilian and I saved the lives of 76 passengers.

On July 27, three terrorists dressed in army fatigues killed four civilians in Dina Nagar, Punjab, before attacking a police station. The ensuing 12-hour gun battle resulted in the death of three police personnel. The three terrorists were killed. This was a rare terror attack in the state since the end of the Punjab insurgency in the mid 1990s.

Nanak Chand Sharma's alertness saved what could have been a bloodbath. He spoke to A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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A Ganesh Nadar / Rediff.com
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