Devika Rotawan was only nine when she saw Pakistan-backed terrorist Ajmal Kasab firing indiscriminately at people in Mumbai's CST railway station. Stuck with a bullet in her right leg, she played an instrumental role in ensuring Kasab was hanged for his crimes, becoming the youngest witness to testify against him at the trial.
Almost a decade has passed since the attack, and while her flesh wounds have healed, the mental trauma she had to face has still not passed. The passage of time has given her a steely resolve to become an IPS officer and nab terrorists and teach the mastermind of the 26/11 attacks a lesson.
Now in Class 11, the frail girl with multiple injury marks says she remember what transpired at CST station that fateful day vividly.
“I had reached CST from Bandra to go to Pune with my father and brother. We all were waiting for our express train on Platform No. 12. My brother had gone to the toilet and then all of a sudden, firing started.”
“In the loud noise of the firing, there was shouting and screaming everywhere. My papa held my hand and like all other people, both of us too started running away to save our lives. Then at that moment I realised that something hit my foot and it started severely paining. I fell on the ground.”
She said that amid the screaming and wailing and weeping of people, she could see the man who was firing. “He was smiling and there was no remorse on his face. He was Ajmal Kasab,” she recounted.
Her decision to testify at the trial and identify Kasab as the main perpetrator changed hers and her family’s lives completely as relatives and friends ostracised them over fear of backlash from terror outfits.
“Nobody would rent us a house to live in. People were always afraid of bomb blasts or terrorist attacks. Relatives kept away from us. We stopped getting invited to their homes,” she said, adding that she could not even get admission in any school in the city till four years after the attack.
She revealed she also had to face taunts because people thought she testified against Kasab for the publicity. “Wherever I live, people call me Kasab wali ladki, Kasab ki beti (daughter). You come here and ask anybody where 26/11 attack girl is staying, they will lead you to me, saying Kasab’s daughter stays here.”
Her father also had to shut down his dry fruit business as customers dried up fearing being associated with the family in any way could lead to reprisal attacks.
“While I was undergoing treatment, my brother was with me. He used to nurse me but did not wear gloves and got infected. He developed a lump in his throat. We are poor people. He became so frail that even bones in his back were visible. Due to me, my brother got this disease for ever. Had I not got injured with the bullet, my brother would have been leading a normal life,” she said.
Once Devika’s condition improved after undergoing six surgeries, the family decided to shift to Rajasthan. But then one day, a call from Mumbai Police brought her back.
“They asked papa, will Devika testify she had seen Kasab? We decided that Kasab must be punished. At that time, wounds in my foot had not yet healed. I used to go to court on crutches. In the court, Kasab was sitting near the judge. I saw and immediately recognised him.”
‘Ten years have gone by. A lot of time has passed. Even then, when I look back, that day is still so fresh in my memory. All those injuries are still unhealed,” she said.