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Meet Devika Rotawan: Witness in the 26/11 terror attack who testified against Ajmal Kasab at the age of 11

"My wounds haven't healed in these 15 years. They are as fresh as ever. I am still struggling," lamented Devika Rotawan.

The 26/11 attacks, which occurred in Mumbai in 2008, were a series of coordinated terrorist attacks by Pakistani terrorists. Striking multiple locations, including iconic landmarks like the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the Islamists killed 166 people and injured hundreds.

Ajmal Kasab was the only terrorist who was caught alive. Devika Rotawan – a nine-year-old girl at the time of the attack – was the youngest witness in the case against Ajmal Kasab. It was Devika Rotawan who confirmed the identity of Ajmal Kasab in the courtroom.

With the Mumbai terror attacks marking their 15th year, Devika Rotawan has turned 24 and still struggles on various fronts in her life.

The shooting at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in Mumbai

Devika Rotawan does not need an anniversary to remember the Mumbai terror attacks. The memory of that night is etched in the minds of her whole family. Devika had lost her mother in 2006 due to some prolonged illness. At that time, she was 7 years old.

Her father would sell dry fruits to support the family. But he too had to give more time to hospital visits as Devika also had many health issues in her childhood.

On the night of 26/11, at around 9:30 p.m., Devika, her father, and her brother were waiting for their train to Pune at the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in Mumbai when they heard an explosion followed by gunshots.

Kasab revealed startling details in his narco test analysis
Ajmal Amir Kasab on CST(Image Source: Hindustan Times)

In mere moments, they witnessed individuals being shot, collapsing in distress, while others fled to preserve their lives. Numerous lifeless forms sprawled across the scene, blood still streaming, encapsulating the harrowing chaos of the situation.

A bullet suddenly hit Devika Rotawan in her right leg. Devika collapsed. Her father and brother also got down to help her. But in that moment of crisis, she happened to have a clear gaze at the gunner who continued to shoot the people at random. He was Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist Ajmal Kasab.

Later, when the trials against Ajmal Kasab began Devika Rotawan appeared as the youngest witness in the case and confirmed the identity of the terrorist in front of the court.

Her testimony gave her nationwide attention through the media reports. A picture of her in the media received a lot of coverage in which she was seen reaching the court with the help of crutches.

The aftermath of the attack

Devika had to stay at the hospital for 65 days to recover from the bullet injury. She resolved to become an IPS officer to fight against the evil in the society. But her schooling had frequent gaps. Before the attacks, those gaps were due to illness.

After the attack, it was because of the leg injury. She resumed school at the age of 11. But soon after that, she faced three years contracted TB. After going through another round of hospital visits, she recovered from it in 2014. Now, she is a final-year student in a BA course at Chetna College in Bandra in Mumbai.

Devika going to appear in court for testimony. Image Source: The Better India

The family which first lived in a chawl in a Bandra slum, shifted to a rented 1BHK flat in a residential building in Santacruz. They are still fighting a legal battle to get their own home from the state government.

Devika has two elder brothers. One of them lives in Pune with his family. The other one is handicapped and he lives in Mumbai with Devika and her father. Despite his disabilities, he works at a stationary shop to support his family.

The current plight of Devika Rotawan

Devika Rotawan wanted to become an IPS officer. But life has already burdened her with a lot of responsibilities to support her family as her father is ageing. She gets little time to prepare for exams and has no separate support for preparations. She is currently looking for a job.

When asked about people pointing fingers at her for moving away from her aim which she once told in public, Devika Rotawan said, “They don’t know the struggle I have been through all these years. Amid the struggle to survive, there has been no room to prepare for civil service exams.”

Ajmal Kasab, 26/11 attacks, and terrorism

As a witness, Devika Rotawan had a close look at the Indian judiciary system. She came to know of the flaws at a very young age.

Describing her agony she said, “Ajmal Kasab was living well in prison, whereas our life outside was a struggle. Just because my father and I were among the witnesses who identified Kasab, we were looked at differently. People feel we are facing some death threat and it might harm them if they are associated with us in any way. Finding a house, a school and even expecting support from relatives was difficult.”

She added, “When I was on the witness stand and Kasab sitting close to the judge, I wanted to throw a crutch at him or shoot him. Now I know how important it was to have him alive to know more details. There is still no peace. Kasab was just one person sent for the job. What are we doing about the masterminds? Unless all such activities are stopped, there is no guarantee that there will not be another terror attack.”

It is notable that Ajmal Kasab was hanged on 21st November 2012. She said, “A lot of people supported us, a lot of people did not, some supported us just for exhibition. My wounds haven’t healed in these 15 years. They are as fresh as ever. I am still struggling.”

Conclusion

As the 26/11 terror attacks complete 15 years, we as a society need to identify the sufferers and witnesses like Devika Rotawan who still struggle for something as basic as a house.

Completing one’s aspirations still seems like a long-lost dream when no agency is helping them to get a follow-up to ensure the due state aid. Devika Rotawan’s testimony confirmed Kasab’s identity leading him to his fate of the death penalty through a judicial process.

The struggle of the Rotawan family for survival continues to this day.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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