Struggling to come to terms after losing breadwinners in 26/11 attack, families say they are least bothered about the gunman’s fate
The houses of Gangubai Sakhre, 45, and Momina Khatun, 30, are just a stone’s throw from each other but the women have never met. Both have lost their husbands in the 26/11 attack but neither of them is bothered about what happened to Mohammad Ajmal Kasab. To the two women, it does not matter whether the Pakistani was hanged or not. “We have already lost what we should not have,” is what they say.
Both men who lost their lives did no harm to anyone, say their wives. “My husband never quarrelled or beat up anyone, not even me,” said Ms. Sakhre of Sitaram, who was a porter at the Navi Mumbai’s Agricultural Produce Market Committee. He was shot dead at the CSTstation, when he, along with 12 members of the family, was about to board a train to their native town Solapur to attend a marriage scheduled for November 30, 2008. After Sitaram’s death, the Railways provided his elder son Ganesh a job.
“Why do these attacks happen in the first place? Why can’t we just have peace,” asks Ms. Sakhre, tears in her eyes. “Meet her [Momina Khatun] also. I wanted to meet her for the last 3-4 years. But have no idea what to say.”
Ms. Khatun, a mother of four, lives in one-room in a 100-sq.ft house in the Baiganwadi slum at Govandi, an eastern suburb in Mumbai. Another floor in the house has been rented out. “The money comes from the rent is our income,” she says. The income is in the range of Rs. 4,000-5000. She realised her cherished dream of having a house, but only after spending the compensation she received from the government after the death of her husband Mohammad Umar.
Umar, who was a taxi driver, had Kasab and another terrorist Abu Khan as his passengers. The duo planted RDX in his taxi and it exploded at Vile Parle, a western suburb, killing Umar.
Ms. Khatun’s was pregnant with her fourth child when the terror attack took place. “Arbaz (9) and Faisal (7) know that they will never see their father, while Afzal (5) and Farhan (3) don’t know anything about their father,” she said.
Ms. Khatun wants a government job but has no idea of whom to contact and how to apply. “The compensation money did help us, but we have lost our source of income. We need something which will ensure that my children continue their study,” said Ms. Khatun.
“Yes, I have heard of that Hindu lady. Her family lives nearby. Even if I want to meet her, I am scared of meeting her,” she said, when asked whether she knew Ms. Sakhre.
While the families of the deceased are pulling through without their loved ones, Sabira Khan and her son Hamid Khan continue to suffer the torture, even after four years. Unpaid hospital bills of Rs. 8 lakh and the burden of the possibility of a fifth surgery on Ms. Khan have worsened the situation for the family.
“[Congress president] Sonia Gandhi put her hand on my mother’s head when she came to J.J. Hospital [in Mumbai] and assured us of so many things. We just remember those words now, none of them has come out true yet,” said Mr. Khan, 27.
On November 26, 2008, his mother Sabira was standing some distance away from a taxi while returning home from tuition classes. The blast in that taxi on Dockyard Road in South Mumbai killed the driver and the two occupants, and Sabira was injured seriously.
“Why can’t the government fulfil its promises? Why do we have to send hundreds of letters asking for compensation? Forget compensation, at least pay our hospital bills and give a job to one of the members of the family. This is what Soniaji promised, then why can’t the government do it” asked Ms. Khan. The family had to pledge its house at Govandi for raising money.
“We had a shop at Mumbra and had to sell all the cloth material immediately to raise some more money,” said her son. Naturally, the lack of money has affected her daughter’s education. The girl dropped out of school. “We don’t have money to spend on her fees,” said Ms. Khan. Her other three children, two boys and a girl, are still going to school but have not paid fees for the last few months.
“Good that they hanged Kasab, but will they also look after us, whom Kasab tried to kill for no reason,” asks the Khan family.
Kasab’s death may have solved a few problems of the government and may have made some people burst with joy. The families of the victims, however, find survival more important than anything.
For Ms. Sakhre, celebrations after Kasab’s death have no meaning. “My elder son Ganesh brought firecrackers to celebrate his death. I stopped him. Why should we celebrate anyone’s death?”