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26/11: His father was shot before his eyes

By Vinod Raghavan
November 19, 2009 14:18 IST
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Four-year-old Neeraj alias Yash has to live on with the gory memory of his father being shot dead by Pakistani terrorists right in front of his eyes on November 26 last year.

Yash was wise enough to duck behind the door of his shanty located at the back of the Cama hospital in south Mumbai and saw his father being felled by the two terrorists, including Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving Pakistani gunman, who had gone on the rampage that frightful night.

The two armed with hand-grenades and Kalashnikovs killed scores of commuters at the busy CST station and on their way towards Cama hospital from the back side, fired a few rounds on the nearby shanties killing Yash's father Thakur Waghela and another person, Bhagan Shinde -- both employees of the government-run G T Hospital.

The duo also fired at the nearby house where Waghela's parents live with his brother's family, but none was injured.

"The little boy came crying to me and said my father has been shot dead," said Jamnabai, mother of Waghela, recalling the horrifying incident.

"I could not believe him, as the father and son were having their dinner while his wife Karuna had gone to her sister's place in Titwala along with their daughter. Now the poor boy has to live with the shocking memory of his father being shot," she said.

"We heard the sputtering noise but thought someone might be bursting crackers as most of them were watching the ongoing India-England cricket match," Jamnabai said.

Before being shot, Waghela had called his wife to stay back as he learnt that there was some problem at CST, Karuna said, adding that she also advised her husband not to venture out of house.

Accordingly, both father and son were having their dinner, unmindful of the impending tragedy, inside their shanty located on the roadside.

After the attack, the government allotted a flat at Sion in central Mumbai to his wife and also deposited Rs 30 lakh in Karuna's name. The money and the flat have now become a bone of contention between Waghela's mother and wife, who also got a job at the G T Hospital.

Waghela's mother, who has refused to move to the new flat, said: "How I can go when my son, who I raised and who breathed his last in this shanty, is gone? I cannot abandon this place which is full of fond memories of his life and also his tragic death."

Karuna's three children and her parents who came from Anand district in Gujarat are staying with her.

Karuna was bitter about a media report that she had taken all the money with her and also the job and the house. "I have to take care of my children and their education. Even then I gave Rs 5 lakh to my in-laws to get back their village land. I have assured them that I will continue to help them financially," she said.

Waghela's first death anniversary rituals will be performed at the old house where he lived and died, Karuna said.

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Vinod Raghavan in Mumbai