PAKISTANI GUNMAN OF MUMBAI IN COURT
Date: 11 Jun 2009
Disabled by bullet, child points finger at Kasab
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Devika outside the court in Mumbai. (Fotocorp)
Mumbai, June 10: A 10-year-old girl permanently disabled by the bullets of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab today went up to the witness box and identified the Pakistani as the man who went on a killing spree at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus on 26/11.
Reprimanded repeatedly for grinning during court proceedings, Kasab looked subdued for the first time. He avoided any eye contact with the child on crutches — who told the court she wouldn’t lie after taking oath in God’s name — and her father, among the first witnesses to narrate what happened at the terminus, where the four-day terror attack began.
Kasab and his partner Ismail Khan, gunned down later that night, are accused of slaughtering at least 72 people, 58 of them at CST alone.
Devika Rotawan, daughter of small-time dry-fruit seller Natwarlal Rotawan, walked into the heavily fortified special court at Arthur Jail on crutches helped by her father and elder brother Jayesh, 12.
Dressed in a red-and-orange frock, Devika, whose right leg is part amputated due to the bullet injury, remained composed and confidently began narrating the sequence of events as she sat in the witness box.
On 26/11, the girl had accompanied her father and Jayesh to the station to catch a train to Pune, where her eldest brother Bharat lives.
Kasab’s lawyer Abbas Kazmi objected to the testimony of the girl, who was not listed as a witness earlier, saying it was an attempt by the prosecution to emotionally charge court proceedings.
Judge M.L. Tahaliyani overruled the objection, saying: “Devika is a natural witness and her account would be a true deposition of her experience.”
Before recording her testimony, Devika took the mandatory oath with Tahaliyani asking her if she understood what that meant. “What happens if you take an oath and lie?” the judge asked in Hindi. She replied, in Hindi, that it is sinful to take God’s oath and lie.
The young girl, who lives in a Bandra slum, narrated how they heard a loud explosion when they were in the main waiting hall and saw two gunmen fire indiscriminately.
“We were at VT (the old name of CST) station as we were going to meet Bharatbhai when we heard the noise. My father said we should leave and began running. My brother (Jayesh) ran in another direction. One of the bullets hit my right leg, and I do not remember what happened after that,” Devika said in Hindi.
Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam then asked her if she could identify the gunman among the three accused: Kasab sat in a corner of the dock along with Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin, accused of facilitating the attacks.
“Yeh is side mein baitha hai woh (He is sitting on this side),” a confident Devika said, pointing a finger at Kasab.
Kazmi objected to her testimony and accused her of deposing falsely.
Pat came Devika’s reply: “Bhagwan ki kasam kha kar main jhoot nahin bolti (I don’t lie after taking God’s oath).” Kazmi didn’t question her further.
Throughout Devika’s deposition, Kasab, wearing a grey T-shirt and blue track pants, remained seated with his head down. He did not look at either Devika or Natwarlal, whose testimony earlier brought out the pain of a helpless father.
The 45-year-old man narrated how he ran to safety clutching Devika, and later rushed her to adjacent St George’s and JJ hospitals.
With tears welling up, Natwarlal asked for Kasab to be hanged. “This scoundrel has shot my daughter, spoilt her life and killed so many others. Don’t keep him here. Hang him to death,” he screamed.
Judge Tahaliyani tried to calm Natwarlal, who, however, couldn’t control himself. “The bullet injury has broken my daughter’s leg. She can’t walk without crutches. Doesn’t Kasab have parents?” he asked, glaring and pointing at the gunman.
The prosecution also examined Farooqi Khaliluddin, who was injured in a grenade explosion at CST. “This tiny man was in a jovial mood while he fired,” said Khaliluddin, who, along with his son Razak, a medicine student in Moscow, received shrapnel injuries. Assistant police inspector Bharat Bhosale, who injured his hand during the CST firing, also deposed.