Mumbai Terror Attack — I am addressed as Kasab’s daughter: 26/11 survivor recalls her journey

19-year-old Devika Rotavan and her father, who gave testimony against 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab 10 years ago, are still being treated indifferently

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26/11 is considered as a black day for Mumbaikars. On November 26, 2008, 10 terrorists entered Mumbai via coastal route and killed 256 innocent people which also included policemen of high ranks. This unfortunate incident completed 10 years, this year. 

Of 10 terrorists, police constable Tukaram Omble laid down his life while capturing Ajmal Kasab. He was the lone terrorist who was captured alive, rest were killed. There were many survivors who saw the incident unfolding in front of their eyes, but then 9-year-old Devika Rotavan played a very important role in sending Kasab to gallows.

However, 26/11 incident changed Devika’s life who narrated her story to Mumbai Live.

I can never forget 26/11. I remember we were planning to go to my brother’s place in Pune. We all were very excited and happy. My father, brother and I reached Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) and were waiting for an express train on platform no. 12. My brother wanted to use the men’s washroom, so he went. After a while, we heard a loud thud and people started running helter-skelter. Before I could understand, my father held my hand and started running with the crowd. However, I collapsed and suffered an injury. Then, I saw a terrorist who was firing his gun in all directions. In the nick of time, people were collapsing, shouting, screaming but he was laughing.

After a while, I was unconscious. Luckily, my father was not shot but his shirt was covered with blood. When I woke up I was in the hospital where there was chaos. I was shot in my leg, and it was paining. Seeing my father and brother, I started crying and felt relieved to see them alive. Later, I was moved to JJ Hospital for further treatment.

I was in JJ Hospital for a month and half. My leg was operated on. Meanwhile, my brother used to help me in dressing the wound and he used to help others as well. However, he used to not wear gloves or mask, the result of which, a lump developed in the neck. Though doctors operated on the lump, due to infection, his spinal cord was affected.

After receiving treatment, we went to our native place in Rajasthan. While we were in Rajasthan, we received a call from the police who asked my father if he could give a testimony. I remember seeing Kasab and his wicked smile while killing people. I agreed to give testimony. As my wound was not healed, I reached the court with the help of walking sticks. After taking the oath, three men were made to stand in front of me and I was asked to point out the terrorist - Kasab. I saw him standing with his head down and I recognised him. 

My Father and I felt so proud that we could do something for our country. Our relatives, friends praised us. After a year, our lives had normalised. But, soon, my father’s day fruits business was shut down because no dry fruits seller was ready to give him dry fruits to sell. They were scared that terrorists will attack father as we both had given testimony. Our relatives too started distancing themselves from us. Whenever we used to go to our native place, we used to reside in an affordable hotel instead of our relatives' house. My education too suffered as no school was ready to give me admission. However, with an NGO’s help, I secured admission in seventh grade. 

Meanwhile, I was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB). We asked for monetary help, many helped us but it was not sufficient. I tweeted to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but I did not receive any reply. I was asked to write a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. After running from pillar to post, my father received monetary help. 

We have been suffering for the past 10 years for giving testimony against Kasab. No one backed our family. People literally address me as Kasab’s daughter and I don't understand why do they say that. But, it hurts.

However, I will not give up, nor my family. I want to become an IPS officer and want to fight against terrorists.

Like Devika, Mumbaikars will never forget the 26/11 cowardly attack. It made them resilient. Mumbaikars will continue fighting back and will not bog down in front of any terror forces. 

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