Staff Reporter

An emotional father lashes out at Ajmal

Mumbai: A child who was badly injured in the Mumbai terror attacks deposed before the Special Sessions Court earlier this week. Ten-year-old Devika Rotawar entered the witness box on crutches. She told the court that she was shot in her right leg and that she had seen the attackers. She identified the lone surviving gunman Mohammad Ajmal Amir ‘Kasab’ in court.

The little girl said that on November 26, 2008, she was waiting at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) with her father and brother. The trio was waiting to board a train to Pune.

“Suddenly, there was a loud explosion followed by firing. My brother ran in one direction. A bullet hit my leg and I fell [unconscious]. I don’t know what happened after that.”

Devika’s leg was broken and she had lost a lot of blood. She regained consciousness by 4 a.m. on November 27 at a hospital. The father carrying his fragile child in his arms into the courtroom and the controlled and confident testimony of the little girl was a poignant moment in the ongoing terror trial.

Ajmal’s lawyer Abbas Kazmi had objected to her testifying on the grounds that she was a child witness and her statement had not been recorded by the police. The judge M.L. Tahaliyani overruled the objection. He said Devika was a natural witness to the case and the prosecutor could not be prevented from examining her. He noted that there was no such statutory bar that witnesses whose statements have not been recorded could not depose, although in normal course of events that would be the case.

To ascertain if the girl understood the sanctity of the oath, the judge asked her if she knew what ‘god’ meant. Devika said ‘yes.’ “Can you lie if you have taken an oath on god?” he asked. “No, you are sinned against [paap lagta hai] if you do that,” she said.

Her father, Natwarlal Rotawar, who deposed before her, was too distraught while giving his account. He recounted the CST events, the attackers’ appearance and the developments after his daughter was shot. When asked to identify the attacker, he pointed to Ajmal and launched a bitter verbal attack on him.

“Hang him. He has ruined my daughter’s future,” he told the court. The defence did not cross-examine him to a great length because of his highly excited state.