By QUAID NAJMI
A 9-year old girl, who was shot in her leg during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 and dreamed of becoming an IPS officer to crush terrorism, is now running from pillar to post for sheer survival.
On the verge of being thrown out on the streets due to financial constraints, the survivor — Devika Natwarlal Rotawan, now 21 — has filed a petition in Bombay High Court against the alleged apathy of the Maharashtra government for not extending the aid that was promised to her family.
The prime prosecution eyewitness in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, it was the plucky girl’s telling testimony against Ajmal Amir Kasab that finally led to his hanging on November 21, 2012 in Pune’s Yerawada Central Jail.
It is now 12 years since that harrowing night — when she was at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus with her father Natwarlal and brother Jayesh — when Pakistani terrorists struck.
She was in the main hall of the train terminus waiting to catch a train to visit her brother Bharat living in Pune when all hell broke loose at around 9.50 pm as the terrorists fired indiscriminately and hurled grenades at passengers.
As the terrified Rotawans attempted to escape, a bullet from the terrorist’s Ak-47 rifle pierced her right leg and she collapsed unconscious and bleeding.
Much later, Devika woke up in hospital and over the next six months, she underwent six surgeries and required months of post-operative care to help her walk normally.
In her plea, filed through prominent New Delhi-based lawyer Utsav Bains, she said that subsequently, many central and state government officials visited her tiny tenement in south Mumbai, learnt that her father did not have a permanent source of income and the family’s financial condition was very poor.
“At that time, I was promised a home under the EWS quota and financial help for education, etc, but the monetary compensation of Rs. 3.5 lakh was spent on my medical and post-operative care,” Devika told IANS.
Devika said in the petition that she and her family got nothing as promised, besides the medical expenses and the small compensation that was spent her medical care.
She said her father is aged and bedridden, lost his job recently due to the Corona pandemic lockdown, her brother Jayesh is also facing many serious medical issues and unemployed, while the Pune-based Bharat has severed links with the family.
“The worst is that the landlord of the tenement in Bandra east is now losing patience as we have not paid the rent for over one year. I studied in the IES New English School, Bandra east, and did my HSC from Siddharth College this year,” Devika said.
In the past, she made appeals to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and says that ex-Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis proved to be an angel extending an aid of Rs 10 lakh that was spent on the treatment for tuberculosis.
Last month, on July 19, she made another representation to the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra, seeking a house under the EWS quota, but got no response, said Bains.
Out of sheer desperation, Devika has now moved the Bombay HC for justice in the form of a EWS quota house and financial aid for her academic future.
“During the trial, she identified Kasab and her testimony along with her father’s statement, was heavily relied upon by the Special Court which finally convicted him,” said Bains in the petition.
“The matter is likely to come up this week and I shall argue it from Delhi given the pandemic guidelines,a Bains told IANS.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: email@example.com)