That dreadful night of 26 November 2008, the mention of which makes my soul tremble. Thirteen years have passed, but neither the horror of that night has gone from my heart nor have my wounds healed. Then I was 9 years 11 months old. I had seen blood holi, dead bodies all around at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Station (CST). Saw a monster shooting and laughing. He got shot in my right leg, had 6 surgeries in 6 months, also got TB disease. When I became the main witness, reaching the court with the help of crutches, without fear, I recognized terrorist Ajmal Kasab and brought him to the gallows.
The reward for my bravery was that I received constant threats to kill me, relatives and people of the society kept distance from us. Papa’s business got ruined. There was a need to pay the rent of the house and eat. The promises made by the leaders, ministers and officers to provide a house and take care of my education were not fulfilled even after 13 years. After traveling from the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to the Prime Minister’s office, I have now approached the court for justice.
Sir, my name is Devika Rotawan, now I am 22 years old and am the victim and eyewitness of that attack. I am living with my father and handicapped brother in a small room in Government Colony, Bandra. The family is torn apart due to financial constraints.
Let me tell the story of that dreadful night on the 13th anniversary of that attack today…
That evening of 26 November 2008, I was on my way to Pune along with my father Natwarlal Rotavan and younger brother Jayesh to meet elder brother Bharat. We were waiting for the train while standing on Platform 12 of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Station (CST) in Mumbai. Then suddenly the sounds of people screaming, shouting and running started coming. In between, loud gunshots and explosions were heard. Father grabbed my hand and started trying to run away with the crowd.
Meanwhile, I got shot in my right leg, I fell there. In front, a person was laughing and firing bullets at the people. Many people fell victim to his bullets in front of me. Within a few moments, dead bodies started appearing here and there. I couldn’t understand what was happening. After a while I fainted. When I regained consciousness, I was in St. George’s Hospital. Many people were there like me, doctors were getting stitches, taking out bullets. I was so scared seeing all that.
From there I was shifted to JJ Hospital. On November 27, a bullet was removed from my leg. I had broken a bone in my leg. There I had 6 surgical operations. I stayed in the hospital for 6 months. After being discharged from there, she went to her village in Rajasthan. There my uncle was contacted from Mumbai Crime Branch. Then talked to me and said that you are ready to come in court. Will you recognize Kasab? If you are not afraid, you will not back down.
I was horrified as soon as the dreadful face of that terrorist came in front of my eyes, but his brutality and fierce laughing firing boosted my spirits. I agreed to testify. I said that I am ready to recognize those monsters. Papa saw both the terrorists and I saw Kasab. Then on June 10, my father and I testified in the courtroom.
When I went to the courtroom, I used to walk with crutches. Seeing Kasab, I felt like throwing crutches to kill him or if someone gives me a gun, I should shoot him. Let me hang him now. There were three terrorists sitting in front of me, I had to identify Kasab among them. The one who was sitting on the first side of the judge was terrorist Kasab. I identified Kasab there.
After that testimony, my whole life changed. When the matter of Kasab’s identity reached relatives and neighbors through the media, everyone’s attitude changed. The wholesalers stopped giving goods (nuts) to my father, a dry fruit trader. His business was closed. School people cut off my name. The neighbors distanced themselves. No one was ready to give loan. People feared that terrorists might attack their homes, shops or relatives. They started saying that you will die, why do you want to kill us? If Kasab comes free, he will not only kill you, will not leave us too, go and go somewhere else. My condition became like a criminal.
When I was admitted in the hospital, my brother used to stay with me. Used to do my dressing, there people said that Jayesh, you dress your sister, do the same for others. Then the brother was not told that at the time of dressing, wearing gloves, wearing a mask. Brother did not pay attention to him. Due to the illness of others, the brother got infection and lump in the throat. He was treated and then the spinal cord of his back came out. There was a problem in the back bone. Today my brother himself is a handicap. He is older than me, you look younger than me. His body is completely bent.
My father used to get calls from Pakistan. We were threatened to change statements by paying money. If we did not agree, the entire family was threatened with death. Despite this, I testified against Kasab in the court on crutches. We were told to get out of this case or else we will kill you, cut you into pieces. Tried to intimidate us, but I had thought that whatever happens, I will testify against this enemy of the country.
After becoming a witness, people told me that you have done a lot of bravery, daughter. The country is proud of you. At that time many leaders and ministers of Maharashtra government also came. He said that the house would be arranged for you and he would take full responsibility of your studies. Also, will help in Papa’s business, but nothing has happened so far. Only spoken words, false promises were made. During that time two people from the collector’s office came to our house. He said that the house was allotted to you by the government. They took our sign on the paper. We asked him to give us the Xerox paper for it. He said that you will get all the papers in two days.
The contact number he gave. When I applied it, it was found out that it is a wrong number. When we went to the collector’s office, we came to know that it is the number of the collector’s office, but there neither the collector listened to us nor the other officers. Today it has been 13 years since that thing. After circling from door to door, now I have appealed for justice in the High Court. Now just hoping from the court, I am tired, badly broken. Where the bullet hit, there is difficulty in walking, there is also pain in cold.
Our condition is very bad, due to financial constraints we are unable to even pay rent. There was a situation of starvation in the lockdown. The shop where Papa used to work has closed. Brother is disabled, is at home, father’s health is also not good. Mother left the world in 2006 itself. Relatives have turned their backs on us. I told the situation by tweeting from the Chief Minister to the Prime Minister. Tried round the ministry, but no one helped. Also wrote letters to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Aaditya Thackeray, tweeted, tried to meet, but nothing happened.
I had received 10 lakh assistance from former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis which was spent on my TB treatment, if that help was not given, I would not have survived. I am thankful for this but the promises made to me have not been fulfilled yet.
The government says save daughter, teach daughter. I am also a daughter of the country. Why can’t my voice reach him? I am deliberately ignored. It seems that I have just sat down as a spectacle.
Four years of my studies have been lost due to bullet and then TB disease. I am currently pursuing BA 2nd year from Chetna College. Later on I will prepare for UPSC and become IPS. I am sad that for whom I took this step, due to which today his family is neither home nor ghat, but the dozens of ‘award’ honors I have received always inspire me to serve the country.
I want to say this to the country and the society that when I became a witness. What happened to me should not happen to anyone else. If there is a problem with someone, stand by him. Don’t make fun of him. If something is happening in the country, an accident is happening somewhere, then people get scared. The police do not go to the case, the courts are afraid of the court. I say face it boldly. Don’t run away from him. Now if you run away then that culprit will not be punished. We should come to fight, we should know to give a befitting reply to the front.
Devika Rotawan has shared all these things with reporter Rajesh Gaba…