IT HAS been 24 years since Tahir Wagle lost his 17-year-old son Shahnawaz. On January 10, 1993, Shahnawaz, who was a science student at Elphinstone College, was allegedly shot by the police from point blank range near his house. “It has been a long time and people seem to have forgotten the case. It has to be brought back into public memory. I am continuing to fight for justice and will not give up,” says 65-year-old Tahir.
The incident happened during the communal riots that broke out in the aftermath of the Babri demolition on December 6, 1992. Tahir says his son was not killed in the riots by a mob of Hindus but by policemen in uniform. “There were riots in the city but our area was not affected. I can say that none of my Hindu neighbours resorted to violence against us. My daughter Yasmin saw policemen shooting my son dead,” Tahir says. Tahir and his wife Akhtari continue to live in the same house at Pathan chawl in Mazgaon from where their son was picked up by the police.
Akhtari stands on the small balcony pointing out the spot where her son was shot but apart from that does not speak much about the incident. They recall how they had been paid a visit by Justice B N Srikrishna and how Yasmin had told him about the incident. “On the night of the incident, Yasmin saw her brother being shot. She informed her mother and both rushed down. The cops told Yasmin that if she did not take her mother back home again, they would shoot her too,” Tahir says. He was away on a visit to his native town in Ratnagiri district and regrets not taking his family along. “There were no mobile phones then. I was informed only later. The Hindu neighbours came to the house the next morning and told my wife and daughter that they would take them to JJ Hospital where the cops may have taken Shahnawaz,” he says adding that they only found his body.
In the Justice B N Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry constituted by the government of Maharashtra, two pages detailed the “cold-blooded murder” of Shahnawaz by policemen. “When I began pursuing my son’s case, I was told by an IPS officer that it was unlikely that cops would take action against cops. I was told that a deputy commissioner of police who was given the task of inquiring into the murder was only an eyewash,” Tahir says.
Tahir says he was “misguided” by politicians including one who filed a petition in the Supreme Court in the case but did not follow it up. “The case comes up for hearing but we are not aware what is happening. My age and ailments do not allow me to go to Delhi for the hearing. We filed a writ petition before the Bombay High Court a few years ago but were told that we would have to withdraw the SC plea if it has to be heard here. I recently underwent an operation and am awaiting recovery. I want to continue pursuing the case,” he says.
“It has been 24 years. If the culprits in the Mumbai serial blasts, which happened in the same year, can be punished including big gangsters who were involved, why not Shahnawaz’s killers? I hope the chief minister can intervene and ensure justice for all the victims of the riots,” Tahir says.