‘When Kasab Shot Me, He Smiled’: Youngest 26/11 Witness Recounts
On the 12th anniversary of 26/11, survivor Devika recounts the horrific night when terrorists lay siege to Mumbai.
(This story was first published on 26 November 2020 and is being republished from The Quint's archives to mark 13 years of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai.)
Devika Rotawan was just nine years old when she witnessed the 26/11 terror attacks that shook Mumbai in 2008. On 26 November 2008, Devika, along with her father and brother, reached the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) to catch a train for Pune via Bandra. While she and her father waited on the platform for her brother to return from the washroom, all hell broke loose.
First, a volley of bullets were fired their way, followed by an explosion, she recounts.
“As soon as we tried running, Kasab’s bullet hit me on my right leg. I fell down and lost consciousness but before losing consciousness, I saw the terrorist who was firing blindly. I was 9 years and 11 months old, and it was impossible for me to understand (what was happening). I had only seen films where they showed terrorists with big guns opening fire blindly. I was shocked to see this in real life. I saw a gun, the person had a smile on his face, it seemed like he was happy to kill us.”Devika Rotawan, 26/11 survivor
'Felt Like Throwing My Crutches at Kasab And Hitting Him’
With my fractured right leg due to the bullet injury, Devika spent one and a months at the hospital. She underwent six operations to fix her leg. When Mumbai police crime branch officials asked Devika and her father to testify against the terrorists in court, they agreed immediately.
While her father could identify both the terrorists who had unleashed terror inside the CST station that night, Devika had only seen Ajmal Amir Kasab. At 10 years of age, she walked into the court with the help of crutches and testified against Kasab. She was the youngest witness.
“Three terrorists were made to stand before me, and I had to identify who Ajmal Kasab was. The first person who sat beside the judge was Kasab. I was walking on crutches when I went to the court. I felt like throwing them at him and hitting him...or maybe I would have shot him if someone handed me a gun. I held a grudge against him and still do to this very day.”Devika Rotawan, 26/11 survivor
'Government Promises Unfulfilled'
Twelve years since the attacks, Devika says that the government’s promises to give her a home still remain unfulfilled. In 2011, officials from the collector’s office took her and her father’s signature on certain documents. Her family never heard back from them and did not even receive an acknowledgement notice regarding the same, she said.
“If a home was allotted in my name, I don’t know who took it. There have been so many rumours over the years where it has been said that ‘Devika has got everything', but nothing of the sort has happened,” she adds.
After running from pillar to post for over a year, she finally managed to get the Rs 10 lakh compensation that she was supposed to receive from the chief minister.
“I received Rs 10 lakh as compensation from the Chief Minister, for which I had to run around for about a year and a half. I had to use that money to get myself treated for Tuberculosis. Now, because of the lockdown, my condition has worsened.”Devika Rotawan, 26/11 survivor
Requesting PM Modi’s intervention and help for her family, she added: “Today, neither my brother, nor my father are able to work. So, what do I do? For this reason, I place my hopes in the government.”
“PM Modi receives everyone’s message. So, why hasn’t he received my message yet? If something on a small scale happen in Ahmedabad, he receives the message immediately, but this happened in 2008,” she asked.
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