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.



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