By Sukrita Baruah
Eight years after 26/11, the wounds refuse to heal for Sabira Khan (45) and her family. Sabira and her eldest son, Hamid, sit in their small rented flat in BPT Colony, Dockyard Road, amid piles of letters they have written to various government functionaries over the years. Sabira was grievously injured on the night of the attack. A bomb exploded in a taxi standing right next to her at Dockyard Road, the impact of which sent her flying 20 feet. The injury left her ‘71.8 per cent permanently disabled’, and she can’t move without crutches.
“For two months, I was lying in a government hospital without proper treatment, because of which I developed infection in my leg. When I did get operated, the blood that was transfused to me was jaundiced, adding to my pain and problems,” Sabira says.
The 45-year-old has undergone six operations at different hospitals, including JJ, Saifee, Wadala Bombay Port Trust Hospital, Kasturba Hospital and Sion Hospital. She estimates she has spent about Rs 12 lakh on various medical treatments. Her family’s greatest grievance is that the state has provided her neither funding for treatment nor proper compensation.
Hamid waves a document titled Guidelines on Central Scheme for Assistance to Victims of Terrorist and Communal Violence, and says, “We were promised Rs 3 lakh as compensation and job to one relative of the victim. It’s been eight years; we have persistently been chasing after both, but there is no sign of either.”
Sabira’s family includes six children and her ailing 90-year-old mother. Her husband is an employee of the Mumbai Port Trust, but has been unable to work for the past two months owing to an injury.
Hamid runs a stall selling jeans at Andheri, earning around Rs 10,000 a month. The younger children are studying. The costs of Sabira’s treatment has been met by borrowing from acquaintances, selling their clothes store and mortgaging their house in Govandi. Years of financial strain has left the family distraught.
The family believes that the frustrations of terror victims are manipulated for electoral gains. “When the Congress was in power, a BJP leader came and took my mother to the Mantralaya along with other victims to demand compensation. He had told us that when the BJP government comes to power, they will take care of all our costs. Now that they are in power, whenever we try to contact him, we are told he is in Delhi on work,” says Hamid.
Hamid claims he has written over a 100 letters and petitions to government authorities. “They all made promises, and delivered no relief to us. We have appealed to the Mantralaya, the district collector, PM Modi, the health minister, but have just been made to run around in circles by the bureaucracy,” says Sabira.
Before the blast, Sabira used to teach Arabic and Urdu to 20-25 children, and it is while returning from the class that she was injured. Today, her injuries prevent her from taking classes, but she still teaches five-to-six children who come to her house for lessons. “I used to teach poor children for a small fee. I never cared about money. My focus was on service. Even today, I don’t care about making money,” she says.
Sabira dreams of having a small space of her own, where she can hold classes without having to go anywhere. “That would allow me to teach more children — my one true joy,” she says.