Mumbai: On this day in 2010, a low-profile 33-year-old advocate Shahid Azmi, who fought for the people wrongly imprisoned under anti-terrorism laws, was killed in Mumbai. He was shot by a group of gangsters at his office, who claimed that he was fighting the cases of terror accused.
Also known as ‘crusader of justice’, Azmi was a young lawyer who fought cases of those he always believed were wrongly accused in terrorism cases.
Who was Shahid Azmi?
Born and brought up in a slum of Mumbai, Shahid Azmi was a victim of the 1992 Bombay riots, at the very young age of 16. Disheartened by the way Muslims were targeted in Mumbai after the Babri Masjid riots, Azmi left Mumbai and joined a separatist organization in Kashmir.
After returning from Kashmir Azmi was arrested in Mumbai by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Delhi Police in 1994. According to reports, Azmi was arrested on the charges of allegedly ‘conspiring’ to assassinate some top politicians of India including Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackery.
He spent nearly seven years at Tihar Jail, Delhi.
It was during his stay at Tihar Jail, that Shahid Azmi started his college education. He did his graduation followed by a postgraduate course in creative writing. After he was acquitted of the charges, he went to study for a law degree (LLB) in Mumbai.
After completing his law degree, Azmi started practising as a defence lawyer for Majeed Memon, a popular criminal lawyer who later went on to become a member of parliament. Soon, he started picking up cases of Muslims charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA). His first major success as a defence lawyer came in the 2002 Ghatkopar bus bombing case, when Arif Paanwala, who was arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and was named the prime accused.
Azmi then represented the accused in the 7/11 Mumbai local train blasts, the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul, and the 2006 Malegaon blasts case.
One of the biggest cases which Shahid Azmi fought was that of Faheem Ansari, a 26/11 terror accused arrested by Mumbai Crime Branch officials for helping Pakistani terrorists. It was during this case when Shahid Azmi was killed. A few months after his death, his younger brother Khalid Azmi completed his law degree and took ahead his brother’s mission himself.
On February 11, 2010, at around 9:00 PM when Shahid Azmi returned from the court, he was shot down by four men who posed as clients in his office located in Taximen’s colony of Mumbai.
According to a report in The Hindu, Azmi’s murder accused—Devendra Jagptap, Pintu Dagale, Vinod Vichare and Hasmukh Solanki—were arrested on the same day. While Jagtap and Solanki are in jail, the other two accused are out on bail.
Hansal Mehta’s film ‘Shahid’
Released in 2013, Hansal Mehta’s film ‘Shahid’ starring Rajkummar Rao is based on the life and work of Azmi. Rajkummar essayed the role of Azmi in the film and won the best actor National award.
“Shahid Azmi. Wish I could tell him how he changed my life. Wherever you are thank you, Shahid,” Hansal Mehta wrote last year on Twitter alongside a photograph of Azmi.
From choosing to join a terror outfit, to being wrongly imprisoned under the anti-terrorism law, to becoming a champion of human rights, Shahid Azmi has left us a truly inspiring journey.