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‘Saw Kasab spraying bullets’: R Tamil Selvan, the man who saved 36 lives at CST during 26/11 Mumbai attacks

R Tamil Selvan and his team moved approximately 40 injured people from the CST station which was under attack from terrorists, to the St George’s Hospital on November 26, 2008.

mumbai Updated: Nov 10, 2018 19:17 IST
Debasish Panigrahi
Debasish Panigrahi
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
mumbai,26/11 attack,mumbai terror attacks
R Tamil Selvan, who had a counter at Mumbai’s CST station, helped save 36 persons injured in the terror attack on November 26, 2008. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

For “Captain” R Tamil Selvan, 57, the sound of firecrackers takes him back to the night of November 26, 2008, at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) when trigger-happy terrorists Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan killed at least 58 people. Of the 100-odd injured, 36 owe their lives to Selvan.

In 2008, Selvan was a parcel contractor and had a counter in CST, along the corridor that led to platforms 14 and 15. November 26 was an unremarkable day until the terrorists entered the premises.

“It was around 9.20-9.40pm. I was handing over payment to some staff when I first heard the shots,” remembered Selvan, who migrated to Mumbai from Tamil Nadu in 1980. His initial assumption was that he was hearing firecrackers, but he sent two of his staff to find out what was going on. “Within seconds, they rushed back, asking everyone to run for life. They had seen two persons shooting indiscriminately at people in the hallway,” said Selvan.

As terrified commuters started showing up near his counter, Selvan went to investigate and stumbled upon a scene that resembled a massacre.

“I saw Kasab spraying bullets at the commuters from an assault rifle at the entrance of platform 13, while his buddy lobbed a hand grenade. I took cover behind a wall, 50-60 metres from them,” he said. “The two terrorists were holding down the triggers on their assault rifles. I had two options: To run for my life or rush victims to hospital. I opted for the latter.”

The injured lay all around him and a few reached out for help. “If the terrorists turned their attention towards me, I would be among the dead.” Selvan decided that he’d take the risk. “I could not forgive myself if I did not help the injured. I said prayers to Lord Murugan before pulling a handcart [used to carry parcels] and lifting the injured onto it.”

Seeing Selvan, eight of his staff and three railway parcel department staff joined him. “Captain [Selvan] got us organised and made sure we stayed together,” said senior parcel clerk Vivek Sharma. “He kept us focussed and moved out victims as quickly as possible.”

Selvan and his team moved approximately 40 people to the nearby St George’s Hospital on November 26. “We could see Kasab and Ismail opening fire and hurling grenades at the local platforms, barely 500 metres away,” Selvan remembered. Thanks to Selvan’s efforts, at least 36 of the injured received medical aid in time to save their lives.

His courage and quick thinking earned him a felicitation from the Governor of Mumbai and a citation from the Railways. In 2009,Selvan joined politics and is now the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator from Sion (Koliwada) assembly constituency. As a legislator, Selvan says the issue of security and emergency services remains a priority for him. “Strict access control and security measures need to be in place at major stations with 24x7 ambulance facilities. There have been many improvements, but still lot need to be done,” he said.

First Published: Nov 07, 2018 12:10 IST