11 yrs on, 26/11 survivors bank on light to fight darkness

Updated: 27 November, 2019 07:39 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

Survivors come together under the banner of #neverforget26/11 at Chabad House, which saw the miraculous rescue of Baby Moshe

26/11 survivors and others at Chabad House on Tuesday afternoon. Pics/Atul Kamble
26/11 survivors and others at Chabad House on Tuesday afternoon. Pics/Atul Kamble

Each year on November 26, the air is heavy with memories from 2008, when 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists launched coordinated attacks at five prominent locations in the city, killing 166 people and injuring over 300.

Baby Moshe — whose parents, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and Rikvah were killed at Chabad House in Colaba — was rescued by his cook and nanny. On Tuesday, survivors narrated their stories at this very location under the banner of '#neverforget26/11'. Among those present were Zakir Hussain, the Holtzberg family's cook, Sadashiv Kolake, Devika Rotawan and her father, and 'Captain' Tamil Selvan.

'One bullet changed my life'
Rotawan was 10 years old when she was shot in the leg at CST railway station. She was also the youngest witness to testify against Ajmal Kasab, who was later hung to death at Pune's Yerwada Jail. "It's been 11 years since that day, but I can never forget it…one bullet changed my entire life," she said. "I was asked by authorities if I would testify. I said yes." Rotawan aims to become an IPS officer. "Hanging Kasab is not justice…justice will be done when the main masterminds sitting in Pakistan, who sent terrorists like him to India, are also killed."

26/11 survivors and others at Chabad House on Tuesday afternoon

'You would've done the same thing'
Selvan was a parcel contractor and had a counter at CST station. "I had just finished work when two of my workers told me of the attacks and to leave." But Selvan went to investigate. "Screams of 'bachao bachao' filled the air. I started putting the injured on my handcart and rushed them to St George Hospital." Selvan and his staff rescued 40 injured, out of which 35 survived. He was felicitated by the governor and has a citation from the Railways. In 2009, he joined politics. Today, he is a BJP legislator from the Sion Koliwada constituency. "If any of you were there in my place, you would have done the same thing."

Hussain, the Holtzberg family's cook, along with Baby Moshe and his nanny, hid at Chabad House overnight and escaped the next day. A picture of him holding a wailing Baby Moshe in his arms became one of the defining pictures from the attacks.

"In the aftermath of the incident, all of us who consider ourselves as God's creatures, must understand our responsibility in ensuring that this doesn't happen again," said Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky, co-director of the Chabad House. "Light is the only thing that can chase away the darkness. How else can you explain a Jewish boy being saved by a Christian nanny and a Muslim cook?"

No. of people killed

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First Published: 27 November, 2019 07:30 IST

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