'Both vehicles completely charred': Two CRPF jawans from Assam recall the horrors of Pulwama terror attack

Syeda Ambia Zahan | Feb 15, 2019 | 5 min read

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Syeda Ambia Zahan

 

As many as 42 CRPF personnel died on Thursday after terrorists targeted a convoy of 78 vehicles with a car bomb at Awantipora in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district. Called the worst attack ever on security personnel in the state, reports say the car was carrying nearly 350 kg of explosives.


The attack claimed the life of Maneshwar Basumaraty, //AGE// a soldier from Tamulpur in Baksa district of Assam. A state of anger and despair was evident across the district on Friday. Senior CRPF officials visited Basumaraty's house to offer condolences to the family. The last rites of Basumatary, who is survived by his wife, a XX-year-old son and a YY-year-old daughter, will be performed Saturday in his village.


According to reports, another soldier from Assam, identified as Kanak Kalita from Khetri in Kamrup district, was injured in the attack. 


However, two jawans from Assam, who have lived to tell the tale, narrate their accounts of the incident to FirstpostBoth Hitesh Chandra Sarkar and Pabitra Barman hail from Assam’s Bongaigaon district. Sarkar and Barman were returning to their camps from Jammu after a month-long leave.

 

‘People presumed I was dead’


Pabitra Barman attached with 115 Battalion of CRPF was one of the over 2,500 soldiers traveling in the convoy. “We were just an hour away from our destination when the convoy came under attack—a blast rocked the bus that was right behind mine. Those who witnessed it from afar thought it was my bus that had exploded. Soon, news that I had died in the attack went viral. It took a while before we could clarify that I was safe,” he said. 


The young man from Boitamari of Bongaigaon district was first mistaken as one of the slain soldiers in the attack. However, later Barman posted on Facebook that he was alright. “Hi Friends, I am full safe and sound. I was not there...” Barman wrote. 


“I didn’t see the blast clearly as our driver diverted our vehicle as soon as he heard the explosion. We entered the closest camp and stayed put. There were strict orders that no one was supposed to go out,” he added.


‘Rushed into the nearest camp’


Hitesh Chandra Sarkar, attached with 61 Battalion of CRPF, was in a bus much ahead than that attacked.


A resident of Bidyapur in Bongaigaon, Sarkar says, "When a leave ends, all jawans on holiday gather at the TC (transit camp) in Jammu; from there, the vehicles set off together to take us back. I was in the convoy, and we came under attack sometime between 2.30 pm and 3.00 pm, I think."


Sarkar says there were eight vehicles between his and the one that was attacked. "But my colleague Pabitra’s [Barman] vehicle was right ahead of the attacked one. His bus was fired at, too, but they escaped unhurt. A car was rammed into the bus that exploded; we call it Phidai Nepek: it means the attacker will kill and die. Both vehicles were completely charred. We were saved as our bus was bullet-proof, but theirs wasn’t."


Sarkar says that right after the blast, their driver reversed the vehicle and entered the closest camp. The other buses did the same—entered whichever unit was closest to their location. "My bus had entered 130 Battalion, which is three to four kilometers from the incident site," he says. 


"The media thought Pabitra had died in the attack and flashed the news all over. For a while, even I thought it was true, that Pabitra had died, but I kept trying to reach him. Thankfully, I managed to reach him by nightfall and found that he was fine. I told him about the false news circulating and asked him to call his family immediately. Then, news channels from Bongaigaon and Dhubri started calling me, so I clarified to them that he was fine," says Sarkar.


He says that the vehicles from the convoy left the respective camps they had taken shelter in and reached Bakshi stadium in Srinagar around 10 pm, where a head count was done and names were crossed off lists to mark personnel’s presence. "Finally, at 1 am, we were sent out to our respective units."


Protests across state


In Assam, various organisations staged protest on Friday against the deadly attack.


Bajrang Dal unit in Assam took out a demonstrations across the state against the ghastly attack by burning Pakistan's flag while shouting anti-Pakistan slogans. All Bodo Minority Students’ Union of Assam burnt an effigy of Masood Azhar– chief of the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad, which has claimed the attack. In the capital city of Guwahati, various organisations such as Assam Goria Moria Youth Student’s Organisations and Krishak Shramik Unnayan Parishad burnt the Pakistan flag in protest.


More than 2,500 personnel who had returned from their leaves to the transit camp in Jammu were being moved to Srinagar when the convoy was targeted. J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik accepted that intelligence failure was partly responsible for the attack as loading and movement of the explosive-laden vehicle on the highway could not be detected.

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