The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘I heard a loud sound & saw blood oozing’

Srinagar, June 13: Rimple Saha doesn’t know that her husband, son and daughter are all dead. If she did, her bomb-raked body would probably have turned stone cold by now.

Rimple’s husband Bhavesh, her eight-year-old daughter Neelu and son Ratik, 10, are among the five killed in the grenade attack yesterday in the health resort of Pahalgam, 80 km from Srinagar. The family had come to Kashmir on a holiday.

The young woman, who lay in Srinagar’s SMHS hospital fighting for life, could hardly talk, as doctors had inserted a feeding tube through her nose. Her father-in-law Chander Kant Saha reached here today from Andheri, Mumbai.

“Please don’t tell her that her husband and two children died in the explosion. She still doesn’t know. We have not told her anything. She may collapse. Her condition is serious,” Saha said, trying to hold back tears.

The bodies of Bhavesh and the two children were sent to Mumbai today by the state administration. Till late last night, it was reported that an eight-year-old girl had been killed, but her body could not be identified. Today, her brother joined the list of the dead. The bodies of the two other victims have also been sent to their homes.

In a ward adjacent to the one where Rimple is being treated, Jaleel Ahmed recounted the horror. The manager of Purnima Hotel, which was attacked by the militants, was at the counter preparing bills. “I suddenly heard a loud sound and the next moment I saw blood oozing from my body. I rushed out gathering enough courage,” he said.

“I looked back and saw the tourists who were enjoying their lunch a few seconds back lying in pools of blood. I cried out and someone took me to hospital.”

Jaleel said the restaurant was overcrowded when the militants threw the grenade. “We serve Punjabi, Gujarati and other dishes and our restaurant is always crowded with tourists. Thank god I am safe.”

Away from the hospital, in another hotel, Javed Ahmad picked up the phone yet another time. A frown creased his forehead. “I am worried. My guests are making queries about the safety of their intended journey to Kashmir. I have assured them that what happened yesterday could be an isolated incident. But still, uncertainty hangs over Kashmir tourism after the incident,” he said.

The explosion had come at a time when tourism was picking up in the state.

Mahesh Bhai, a tourist from Ahmedabad, said: “My family is worried though I am enjoying my stay in Kashmir. I was in Pahalgam yesterday and had just left the place. I will visit Gulmarg tomorrow and then leave for Jammu.”

“Suddenly there is tension and you just feel insecure. In this situation, one really cannot enjoy the stay though the weather is excellent. I and my family wanted to stay for some more days. But security is a problem.”

To instil confidence, chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today visited tourist places and interacted with tourists.

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