Three years without Shahid Azmi

Mahtab Alam

Mahtab Alam is a Delhi based civil rights activist and freelance journalist.

He can be contacted at activist.journalist (at)

A hindi film on Shahid Azmi is releasing tomorrow. While it is yet to be seen how much justice bollywood does to Shahid, we are re-posting a memoir written by Mahtab Alam (Co-Editor of on the third anniversary of Shahid’s martyrdom.

Today is the third martyrdom anniversary of Advocate Shahid Azmi. Shahid was shot dead by some ‘unidentified’ gunmen in his office late in the evening of 11th February 2010. Later, those gunmen were identified as the men of ‘patriotic’ underworld Don Chota Rajan. Shahid was just 32 when he was martyred. At the age of 16, he was arrested by police from his home in 1994 for ‘conspiring’ to kill India’s top politicians. The only evidence against this was a ‘confession’ he had never made. Yet, he was given five years of imprisonment.

While imprisoned at New Delhi’s Tihar Jail, Shahid enrolled himself for graduation and began helping other inmates to persue their cases in the court of law. When released in 2001, he came home and enrolled for journalism and law school. Three years later, he quit a paying sub-editor’s job to join defence lawyer Majeed Memon as a junior at Rs 2,000 a month. Later, he started his own practice that ‘made a lasting difference’. In a short period of just 7 years of his career as a lawyer, he gained both fame and notoriety for his commitment for Justice. It would not be unfair to say that, he was a man produced, consumed and later set to his ‘right place’ by the system.

shahid azamiShahid was not just another advocate who practiced law to earn his livelihood. He was a fearless crusader for justice; he was in love with the idea of justice, as one of his friends describes him. At the time of his murder, Shahid was fighting many terror related cases, including of those falsely accused in the Malegaon blasts and 26/11 Mumbai Terror attack. It was Shahid’s crucial arguments at the trail court that resulted in the acquittal of Fahim Ansari, an accused in the 26/11 terror attacks case.

Shahid had been threatened several times for defending Muslims in terrorism-related cases but vowed that he would never stop his work as he was of the firm belief that like judges and prosecutors, it is the duty of defence lawyers to ensure justice with fairness” He used to say, I am pained, the heart bleeds, when I hear what they (victims of bomb blasts) have endured. But in spite of all that, it will never be easy for me to see an innocent being sent behind bars or to the gallows only because the crime alleged was a bomb blast. On being asked, Don’t you think it is risky to start your career at this young an age, all he had to say was, “in the struggle of justice, age does not matter. What matters is the stand you have taken for the defence-less at a time when their voices were lost in the wilderness”.

It is true that Shahid is not amongst us when he is needed the most and his untimely and violent death foreclosed rich possibilities that lay before all of us interested in justice. But it is also a fact that, during these years, I must have met thousands of friends, comrades, students and admirers of Shahid in different parts of the country, nay globe, either in person or online and I am told that there has not been a single day when he was not remembered by all those interested in justice and fair-play. Personally, during this period, whenever I’ve visited courts or seen people wearing the lawyer’s gown, I am reminded of Shahid and of my desire to follow in his footsteps. And I know, it is not just me but there are hundreds like me who have decided to carry forward the work and legacy left by Shahid.

Note: Some parts of this article have been drawn from a previous post written by this author on the first anniversary of Shahid Azmi’s martyrdom. Here is the previous post: Remembering Shahid Azmi, the Shaheed.



  1. Thanks for writing this article. I hope youngsters read, get to know about shaheed Shahid Azmi and are inspired to follow in his footsteps.
    I learned about him and the important work he was doing in upholding the constitutional principles of fairness and justice after his death. His murder has deeply saddened me about the fate of our democracy where instead of being feted, sentient and exceptional humans like Shahid have to pay with their lives and the state (govt. of India) is not in the least bit bothered.

  2. Asif Anwar Alig

    Amazing piece of writing.

  3. abdulrahman ahmed

    even Naushad Kasimji of Mangalore was murdered because he fought for those Muslims who were accused of terrrorism and even today the people behind his murder are roaming free



  5. Adv. Shivkumar

    The 17 acquittals Shahid has sought during his career of 7 years are not because the accused were innocent, but because there was no evidence against.

    A young boy of 14 years involving himself in riots in the year 1993, joining military camps in Pakistan
    Occupied Kashmir and posing as a crusader for accused in terrorist activities.

    The reasoning is not palatable.

    Oh! Indian Judiciary System we pity your helplessness that in absence of evidence you have to acquit criminals

    • Hey, buddy, so you are dreaming of a judiciary system where everyone can be punished without evidence, huh? What a fool!! Every court around does the same thing. In-fact, it is something everyone is trying to enforce everywhere so that a innocent man should not be punished. Wonder how idiots like you get to put “Adv” before their names.

      Now, let me tell you what is wrong with you. You are refusing to believe that a Muslim can be so righteous and heroic and you, like every other religious fundamentalists, are trying hard to discredit Shahid.

      • thanks v4vendetta for ur supports to muslims

        • Mr Zubair Khan… Supporting Shahid Azmi is not supporting Muslims. This is about an Indian who fought for justice for the weak. Please do not give it a religious flavor.

          • True

          • I am not a Muslim, but i find it impossible to believe that all Muslims in our country are criminals. I think criminals do not have religion. If they did, they would not have committed crimes. I have read koran and nowhere does it encourage crimes against society.

            But I do believe Muslims need to upgrade their system. They have to be more outspoken about their stand against terrorism. They must communicate with the outside world. All these false ideas about Muslims going around is because they don’t communicate well. They must reply to accusations and must strive as a community to redeem their good name.

            People don’t fear what they understand. But due to the lack of communication from the Muslim community, people don’t understand then and are therefore afraid of them.

            My advice to Muslims is start talking. Reply to accusations. State what you think of Muslim criminals. Talk. Communicate. Let people know what you are thinking. Let them understand you.

    • So you want to hold someone guilty even if there is no proof? I pity Indian judiciary to have people like this serving as advocates.

  6. Kudos to writer to bring such a enthralling information of slain lawyer. Great work Mahtab…keep it up.
    Really inspiring story.

  7. Tanuj Kapoor

    What an inspiring man! I hope the legacy left by Shahid becomes an inspiration for more people who seek justice for the under-privileged. He was a true patriot and a martyr. World and India would have only been better had he not brutally killed. His sacrifice will not go in vain and I am sure he’ll live forever in the form of everyone who go out and fight against injustice. You could have held a gun and killed innocents, but you chose to pick up a pen and create a world with a difference. Thanks Shahid for the person you have been. We owe you.

Leave a Reply