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No justice yet for Shahid Azmi, but brother carries on fight

Khalid takes the same chair his slain brother Shahid used till the day he was shot dead in 2010. Photo: Omar Rashid  

Barring the CCTV in one corner, little has changed in this tiny chamber tucked away in Taximen Colony, in suburban Kurla, in the past five years.

Most of the items that remind Khalid of his elder brother are intact: the neatly stacked law books and files, a few mementos, stray pages, records and a note pinned to the table reading: “By showing me injustice, he taught me to love justice.” These motivating words quoted from American criminal lawyer Roy Black for years inspired Shahid Azmi till he was gunned down in his office on February 11, 2010.

“He knew he was going to be killed sooner or later. Maybe, that’s why he always pressured me to take up law,” says Khalid, seated on a black chair that Shahid used till his last moments.

Five years later, the passing down of the chair is more than just symbolic.

Khalid grew up indifferent to academics. Only Shahid’s pestering and pressuring forced him to complete his courses before he entered law. In 2009, Khalid earned a law degree from a Borivali college. However, a few months later, Shahid was killed. The incident devastated Khalid as his idol and inspiration was gone. But it spurred him to plunge into the world of law and fight for justice for his brother. “Shahid left me with a small advice: in this field, you will encounter more bad people than good. But you must learn to tackle them,” Khalid says.

Shahid, who was known for defending those wrongly accused in cases of terrorism, had developed an incredible reputation of delivering acquittals. His death sent a shock wave among the legal circles of Mumbai, while rocking the hopes of those languishing in jail with unproven terror charges.

Shahid’s extraordinary journey from spending a few years in jail on terror charges to re-emerging as a criminal lawyer of finesse also inspired an acclaimed film on his life, ‘Shahid.’ For his family, however, there seems to be no sign of justice. The case drags along and charges are yet to be framed till date. Of the five accused, one has already been discharged while another is out on bail. Little support has also come by. Despite assurances from the Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind, Shahid's family got little help from the organisation. This pinches Khalid the most as it was his brother’s legal prowess that was behind bringing Jamiat into prominence. “We are being used as a tissue by the Jamiat,” says a dissapointed Khalid, who is personally overseeing his brother's case and assisting the State appointed team of lawyers.

The Azmi family, originally from Uttar Pradesh's Azamgarh district, spent its initial days in a slum in Govandi Shivajinagar. Shahid's father, an electrician, died when his children were young. And it was only with Shahid's rise that gave them the hope and money to live a better life and shift to their present location. His death delivered a crippling blow to them. “It broke me down physically, mentally and financially. Bhai was the Arjun of our family (they were five brothers). How will you feel if Arjun is no more?” asks Khalid.

There is also the constant threat to life. The killers are yet to be punished. After perceivedthreat and a stray incident, Khalid was allotted a bodyguard but the State was quick to recall the gunner. Though Khalid has on multiple occasions written to the Mumbai police and authorities requesting security his calls have not been answered. Unfazed, he intends to follow the path of his brother and often fights cases for those who cannot afford proper counsel. This, Khalid feels, is what his brother would have done. “We aren’t in a financial state to fight terror cases yet,” he points out.

Khalid, however, is not the only one inspired by Shahid. At least seven youngster have become lawyers after his death. “My brother will always be a hero here,” says Khalid.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2020 3:41:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/No-justice-yet-for-Shahid-Azmi-but-brother-carries-on-fight/article10669499.ece

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