Devika and her family were on their way to meet her elder brother in Pune. She was 10 at the time. They’d taken a taxi to Mumbai’s CST, hoping to take the train. Devika and her father waited in the main hall of the station while the younger of her two brothers went to buy tickets. Mumbai to Pune was a regular trip for the family; the CST was bustling as usual.
Then, Ajmal Kasab and Ismail walked into the station and started to spray bullets indiscriminately on the crowd. A bullet whizzed past her father, almost hitting him. But Devika was caught in the line of fire. She fell down screaming as a bullet entered her right calf.
She was one of nearly 100 people injured at CST, but, thanks to emergency care and a few surgeries, not one of the 57 who were killed at the massacre in the railway station that night. While Devika was being treated for the bullet wound, her family almost lived in the hospital, and in those first 2-3 days, they say that the neighbours ransacked their house thinking the family had been wiped out in the attack.
The family had agreed to be witnesses for the State against Kasab. Devika was one of the few teenage witnesses whose testimonies led to Kasab’s conviction and ultimately his execution. But being victims and witnesses of the 26/11 terrorist attacks carried a strange stigma for them. Devika’s father lost his dry fruit business in the market he used to operate in. Their apathetic neighbours did not want a ’26/11 witness family’ living with them, saying that it put the rest of the neighbourhood in danger. Finding other work was difficult for the same reason.
Now, Devika and her family are regulars at 26/11 shows where politicians and others often showcase them. The family does not shy away from saying that is how they now earn a living—from the donations made during their shows. But Devika, who’s just finishing her schooling after delays from the stress of the trauma, hopes that she can become an IPS officer one day.