NEW DELHI: In the night of July 10, as reports of the terror strike on Amarnath pilgrims trickled in, the Prime Minister called an emergency meeting at his office. Over the next hours, Narendra Modi, national security adviser Ajit Doval, as well as officials from Gujarat, J& K and four central ministries chalked out plans to deal with the immediate aftermath of the attack that left seven dead, senior officials familiar with the matter told ET.
Evacuate the affected pilgrims, ensure that the injured get the best possible treatment, airlift the bodies of the dead to their home states and confirm that there is no backlash of the attack anywhere in the country — this was what Modi wanted his administration to focus on, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Decisions, he told the officials, should be quick.
That night, officials at the PMO and Gujarat government went through a list of 30 communally sensitive spots in the state. Neighbouring Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were sounded out, too. The PM also took a review of the security arrangements in Gujarat.
Extra forces were deployed at important installations. Also, immediately after the meeting, the capital was put on high alert and states where the Kanwar yatra is going on were asked to be extremely careful. “The instructions were clear that there could be reactions but none of them should be allowed to flare off,” an official said.
The terror attack stirred up protests across the country, including the Kashmir Valley. But there were no reports of violence. The rescue operations also went without any hitch.
While NSA Doval was himself supervising the rescue operations, key officials of J&K, Gujarat, the PMO and the ministries of home, defence, health and external affairs stayed up till 3 am on Tuesday morning, finalising logistics to airlift the injured. Weather conditions were not suitable to shift them out of the valley, but the government was determined to give them the best medical care without any delay.
Five of the seven killed hailed from Gujarat. The other two were from Maharashtra. “It was decided not to bring the bodies or the injured pilgrims to Delhi, but to send to Surat directly because the PM wanted the best treatment is given to the injured people. And, he wanted them to be in the surroundings they would be the most comfortable in — their own state, amid their families,” an official said. The home and defence ministries were mobilised to make sure the aircraft was arranged as soon as possible, he said, adding: “By 1am in the night, we had all details in hand so that the efforts could start at the break of dawn.”
To ensure efficient management of the situation, it was decided that the injured would be given free treatment at Surat’s Kiran Hospital, which was informed about the plan in advance. The PM instructed that a team of expert doctors and ambulances station at the Surat airport so that there was no delay.
“From getting the caskets ready to contacting the families who had lost their relatives in the tragedy, the PM was clear — he didn’t want the families to suffer more on any account,” an official said.