Hospital staffer recounts escape from terrorists

Other News Materials 30 November 2008 19:52 (UTC +04:00)

Lying in a hospital bed, forty-nine-year-old Chandrakant Tikhe, a staffer at Mumbai's Cama Hospital recounts the moments of terror when he came face to face with two of the Mumbai gunmen, was held at gunpoint and miraculously lived to tell the tale, dpa reported.

On Wednesday night, Tikhe was among the first people to know that the terrorists had struck the city.

Shortly after going on a rampage in the main railway station, which lies near the hospital in southern Mumbai, two terrorists entered the facility, which serves women and children exclusively and where Tikhe works as a lift operator.

In an interview with the IANS news agency, Tikhe said the terrorists, who were aged between 22 and 25, carried automatic AK-47 rifles and grenades in satchel bags. They had entered the hospital premises through the rear gate after shooting two watchmen.

"They saw me as they walked up straight to the sixth floor and the one looking like a Nepalese asked me in chaste (that is, refined or elevated) Hindi whether I was Hindu or Muslim. When I told them I was a Hindu, they trained their rifle at me, ordered me to turn my back and took away the mobile phone from my shirt pocket," Tikhe told the IANS.

The terrorists then ordered Tikhe, at gunpoint, to lead them through the hospital.

"I tried to resist them but when they threatened to kill me, I acquiesced and started walking down the stairs ahead of them," he said.

Moments later, police officer Sadanand Date and five police constables walking up the stairs saw Tikhe.

Tikhe whispered to the officer in Marathi, a language used in Maharashtra state where Mumbai lies, and said he was a hospital employee. Tikhe then gestured to the officers that the two terrorists were following him at some distance.

The officer told him that he should duck when the police officers opened fire and challenged the terrorists.

The terrorists "ran up throwing a grenade in our direction and hid somewhere on the terrace. After a while, they hurled two more grenades when the police officers continued to fire in spite of suffering grievous grenade injuries," he told the IANS.

"I lay writhing in pain along with the injured policemen while their leader soldiered on disregarding his bleeding wounds. The two (terrorists) then fled the place, perhaps climbing down a pipe," Tikhe recalled, paying tributes to Date for saving the lives of hundreds of people in the hospital.