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On 26/11, his lie saved 25 lives

At least 25 people are alive today because Chandrakant Tikhe, who works at Cama and Allbless Hospital, showed presence of mind on the night Mumbai was attacked. Kanchan Chaudhari reports.See full coverage

india Updated: Dec 15, 2008 01:32 IST
Kanchan Chaudhari

Chandrakant Tikhe is an unlikely hero. This pot-bellied man in his fifties works at Cama and Allbless Hospital — as a generator operator. But at least 25 people are alive today because he showed commendable presence of mind on the night of November 26.

<b1>Tikhe was standing in front of the six-storeyed hospital building with some other staff members and relatives of patients when they heard gunfire. Though they did not know it then, that was the sound of Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, who was later arrested, and Ismail Khan, who was shot dead at Girgaon Chowpatty later that night, opening up with their AK-47s at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST).

As the noise grew closer, Tikhe and the others rushed into the hospital building. Once inside, the staff on duty got into their respective wards and locked the doors and gates from within.

More than a score of others who were stranded on the staircase rushed towards the terrace for cover as gunshots were heard within the hospital compound. Tikhe followed them. But as he reached the terrace, he found himself face-to-face with Kasab and Khan. The duo, after leaving CST, had rushed up another flight of stairs to the hospital’s terrace.

With their guns trained on Tikhe, the terrorists asked him who he was and what he was doing there. “I told them I am a hospital staffer on night shift and that it was my duty to ensure that all doors were locked,” Tikhe said. He managed to convince the two that there was no one else on the terrace and that he was about to close the doors.

This drew the terrorists’ attention away from the terrace where at least 25 people, including doctors, crouched in the dark. Kasab and Khan then wanted to know whether Tikhe was a Hindu or a Muslim.

“I replied: ‘Saab, mein Hindu hoon’ [Sir, I am a Hindu],” said Tikhe. The terrorists then ordered him to lead them out of the building.

Tikhe led the way downstairs while the two followed, keeping well back. And this is what probably saved him.

For halfway down the stairs, Tikhe ran into a posse of policemen — led by Sadanand Date — who had reached the hospital and were on their way up in search of the terrorists.

Afraid that he would be mistaken for a terrorist, Tikhe shouted out to the cops not to shoot, saying he was a hospital staffer. He also held up two fingers, gesturing to the police that there were two terrorists behind him.

The policemen told him to get out of the way and moved in on Kasab and Khan. In the crossfire, Tikhe was injured by an exploding grenade. He was released from KEM hospital after treatment for wounds on his neck and the right side of his upper body.

The terrorists escaped from the hospital and fled towards Girgaum Chowpatty, where Khan was killed in an encounter with the police and Kasab was captured.