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Sunday, March 14, 2010 06:17:08 PM, Rana Ayyub

Shahid Azmi

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No sight would have been as brutal for a mother than to see her son lying in a pool of blood , taking his last few breaths. The mother crying for help to the bystanders and trying to pour the last few drops of water in his mouth, that which he spills out as the soul is on the verge of leaving the body. The men and women who have gathered stare at the blood soaked body of the man, the same man, Shahid Azmi who was the soul of their colony, Mumbai's taximen colony, home to predominantly Muslim families. The mothers cry for help does not yield any response, those gathered just stand still in a state of inertia , perhaps again waiting for divine intervention than themselves taking the first step.

These are the people , for whom Shahid Azmi , my dear friend struggled night and day to get them justice. The same men who the next day in his funeral procession said loud “Shaheed Ka janaaza hai, shaan se niklega”. Yes, you called him a martyr, you sported black bands around your arms, you shouted loud how Shahid Azmi was the victim of the systems injustice and conspiracies galore, and you went back home that night to savour a dinner of perhaps dalgosht or gosht ka saalan. And then you went back in the same state of inertia.

As I make another frequent trip to the same colony, its been seven days since the incidence, this time around I do not call Shahid that I have been caught in a traffic jam and shall be late by ten minutes. I know my phone call would not be answered. I know nobody would pick up the call and ask me the first question “How are you doing?”.


As I walk past the conversation has already changed to India winning the match against South Africa. The same society which was seething with anger a week before seems to have reconciled itself to the justice given to Shahid Azmi. Justice in the form of three hit-men of the Bharat Nepali gang being arrested. The case is almost shut. No questions asked. We are asked to be content that the investigation was done in the most speedy way possible. Within three days the police was able to nab the killers who were wanted in earlier cases. Hit-men who were contract killers and had been evading the police in various other cases suddenly are caught by the police within three days of committing the crime. And the surprise does not end here.

The killers after shooting Shahid do not leave the city as per practice but stay back in the city in fact in the very area as the shootout took place. And our Mumbai Police’s efficiency does not stop here. It is so confident that it has arrested the right people that it does not even bother to call the main witness in the case ‘Inder’ to identify those arrested. The Mumbai Police tells us that it would now try and impose MCOCA on the accused arrested, the same law on whose misuse , I and my colleague had done an expose in Tehelka with the able help of Shahid. Confessions would be taken again, the accused would spend some time in jail and perhaps get bail after an year, after which perhaps they might just abscond and look for another Supari. But where does this investigation which has been a disgusting eye wash answer the questions? Who was the mind behind killing Shahid Azmi. What proof does the police have to say that this act was the mastermind of Bharat Nepali beyond the confessions of the three arrested? Does the police have any proof to say that Bharat Nepali, one time most trusted aide of Chhota Rajan who was even present at his bedside in Bangkok has broken away from him.


It is no secret that Chhota Rajan has been actively working at the behest of the IB and the RAW. Does the police have any proof to negate the fact that Chhota Rajan did not kill Shahid Azmi. The answer is “No”. Our agencies which have been arresting Muslims in the name of being terrorists be it in the train blasts or the Malegaon blasts had been most troubled with the fact that Shahid was exposing their fake cases and was on the verge of winning a historic judgment not just in the train blasts case but perhaps also in the Faheem Ansari case. Would they not be the only ones benefiting from the death of Shahid Azmi, then a lesser known Bharat Nepali who had been living a life of convenience in Bangkok and Nepal courtesy Rajan. Bharat Nepali would in possibility have heard the name of Shahid Azmi the first time when the orders would have been passed on to him.

But, who is going to ask these questions?


The media has been busy in publishing what is being selectively fed to them. In fact after reading my and my colleagues write up in Tehelka on the case and Shahid Azmi, a supposedly ‘secular’ journalist friend sent me an SMS “Why is Tehelka hell bent on proving Shahid Azmi to be a hero? I did not answer for I need not. For I did not need to prove Shahid a hero. For me he became a hero when he called me late in the night on the eve of Eid. I had thought it must have been to wish me. In a very upset tone he said “ Rana, you should do something on the condition of women convicts in jail”. He gave the example of a lady convict in the train blast case who was not even given enough cloth to cover herself to offer namaz. He kept the phone.


An hour later I got an SMS from him “Eid ul Adha is the Eid of Sacrifice and commitment to Allahs orders and to the cause of his helpers . Let us dedicate this Eid to those bravehearts who are fighting injustice and repression. I wish you Eid Mubarak with all my revolutionary fervor”. Today as I sit back and read the message again and again, I just do not know how to stop my tears from flowing.


As I write this, I am not doing it as a piece of journalistic writing but as a means of communicating to all those who he fought for to please wake up from this state of inertia. Please wake up at least now. Shahid saw perhaps the worst that any individual could see in his life but that did not deter him. What is deterring you? Speak up. Do not just cry hoarse while sitting in your drawing room sipping chai that Shahid's investigation was shoddy and this is what happens to Muslims. Agitate. Demand a judicial probe. Protest. Write. And take that one little step and it will make a difference.


I remember one of my last conversation with Shahid in the beginning of this month at a café close to Sessions court where he practiced. “Rana , if just one individual from every family takes that one little step, we wont need any other help. And I am sure it will happen” he said as if having a premonition of what was to happen to him. Let Shahid's work not go in vain. Let not the tears of Shahid's mother go in vain.


As I left Shahid's room after having sat with his mother a day after the funeral, she took my hands and whispered “Beta tum apna kaam jaari karna , Darna mat, Mera Shahid bhi nahi dara beta.”


These words were not just for me . I was the medium. You , my brethren were the means.


The writer is senior journalist and works at present with Tehelka.





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