Off late i have been attending quite a few funerals of friends. Wonder how many more i will have to attend. The most recent being of Advocate Shahid Azmi. A young, able, super lawyer who upheld human rights & extremely handsome. I was first introduced to Shahid he Muslim leader Abu Azmi. He had told me, “Neeta be in touch wt him, he’s a very bright young lawyer. He will become famous,” Abubhai had told me. That was when Abu azmi asked Shahid to take up Khwaja Yunus case, when Majeed Memon let down Yunus’s family. By then memon had become a fixer.
I lost touch for few months thereafter & needed Shahid’s help yet again. That was during the TADA ’93 blast order time, then Train blasts, followed by Gateway, Malegaon to top it..I asked my friend Sanobar to put in a word for me. Since i would not cover court regularly, i lost touch, Shahid saw it as my missing stories, wc then i had to explain to him was not the case. With every passing case, Shahid was getting famous. In a short span of 5-6 years Shahid had become a name in the legal fraternity. It was NOT for the kind of cases he took up. It was how he became famous. His legal skills, his cross questioning, his cool even in the most trying times -Shahid was a shinning example.
Very funny, polite & veryyy warm. He had a spooky dungent cabinet..i’d make fun of him & say We both can’t sit together to talk shahid..that means u don’t me here, you don’t want me to do a story…he would laugh & say no i will soon buy a bigger off so you can sit comfortably..& force me to have the pathetic tea served by the tapri in those cabinets..
The one thing i knew all the families of the alleged accused breathed by his name! They worshipped the ground on wc he walked. I have seen it the villages of Aurangabad & Malegaon. They had faith in Shahid, that he would fight their case till the end & give them justice. Shahid fought for them dedicatedly, that too without charging them any fee. How could he charge fees?? He would tell me, “They have no money to come to Mumbai, forget pay me. You want stories neeta, go meet them at the court, just tell them i’ve sent you.” Shahid never needed to come there, he would send punter or person…but he ensured it all fell in place & i got the people to talk to. He aprpeciated the stories. Over a period of time he would tell me, “i know
what kind of stories to give you…he gave me remarkable cases – man who was given electric shocks on his testicles, alleged to have met Dawood in Dubai, bcoz he lived in Bhendi Bazar also..
Shahid wanted to be a journalist. He had a fine sense of news. More so he knew wc journalist would do what kind of stories. I admired his career & the way he rose. Mind you he was NO fluke…or overnight star. He was to remain for a long time. His only prob was..he was hurt, angry, like a lot of Muslim youth. He had witnessed his cousin sister getting raped, his father was kileld in the 1992 riots after the Babri Masjid was demolished. Shahid lived in the Govandi slums then. He was angry, upset fired the police & said kills those bastard thackerays etc..well i don’t blame him. But the police NEVER forgot him. They kept trace of him.
Angry like many Muslim youth, Shahid went to Kashmir, got enrolled in a training camp, realised that was not his cup of tea or the path he wanted to take. He felt for people & wanted justice. He then thought of doing journalism. But fate had other plans for him. While he was returning to Mumbai, he was picked up & framed for a whole lot of fake sections. At the age of 15 years, Shahid was put behind bars in the topmost jail of India -Tihar jail. That was his turning point. In jail he was put with hardcore criminals that’s where he learnt his basics in law. He would listen to their cases, discussions. people like Azar Masood-Pak terrorist who was released after they hijacked a AI plane fm Khatmandu & many others.
He was released fm TADA, acquitted since all charges were false. Shahid then went on to completing a degree in law. That marked the beginning of a wonderful career. Unbashed about his feelings of those in power. Shahid was clear he will uphold the constitution of India & human rights. Most of all he will fight for the framed Muslims. He was not diplomatic, didn’t mince his words and the kind of cases he dealt was sure shot trouble for him. Basically Shahid was a menace to the authorities. He was threatened and asked to keep quiet.