‘My family lacks courage to watch Shahid can’t see him die again’

There has not been a single day when my mother has not remembered Shahid.

Written by SUKANYA SHANTHA | Mumbai | Published: October 21, 2013 3:54:21 am

As the day neared for the release of director Hansal Mehta’s film Shahid,lawyer Khalid Azmi’s family battled bouts of anxiety and breakdowns. The film is based on Khalid’s slain brother and young human rights activist-lawyer Shahid Azmi.

While Khalid looked forward to the film,the family comprising mother Rehana and three other brothers Arif,Tariq and Rashid,stayed away,dodging any conversation on the film. “I wanted them to come along to watch the film,fight their demons and finally make peace with bhai’s (Shahid) death. But they just would not agree,” said Khalid,who watched the film Friday.

“There has not been a single day when my mother has not remembered Shahid. He was her favourite. This film,although,is an honest tribute to my brother,my family lacks the courage to watch it. My family says it cannot see him die again,” Khalid said.

Soon after his elder brother Shahid’s death on February 11,2010,Khalid,30,started practising law. He has also occupied Shahid’s office in Taximen Colony,Kurla. It was here that four men had barged in and pumped bullets into Shahid’s chest and temple. Shahid was just 33 then.

Along with fighting his brother’s case,he is also defending nearly 100 Muslim youth booked for rioting at Azad Maidan in August last year. Though he has taken the fight forward,bhai’s boots are just too big to fill in,said Khalid.

In a short career span of six years,Shahid had managed 17 acquittals,mostly of Muslim men booked in terror cases. “In other cases which my brother was handling at the time of his death,we are slowly seeing progress. He was consumed by the idea of justice. It is slowly seen to be done,” Khalid said.

Shahid had a tumultuous childhood. His life is believed to have changed the day sword-wielding Hindu fanatics ran towards him as he walked home from school just days after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992.

Just 14 then,Shahid was booked in a “false” case of rioting. Angered,he ran away to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,took arms training,only to return after two years,disillusioned. He was booked,once again. This time under the draconian Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act for allegedly plotting to kill senior Sena leaders.

Shahid spent six years in Tihar jail. He continued to study. He was later acquitted of all the charges. “It was this experience that made him what he was. He could not tolerate injustice,” said Khalid.

At the time of his death,Shahid was handling important cases — the November 26,2008 terror case was the most challenging one. He was defending Fahim Ansari,alleged to have provided logistic support to 10 Pakistani gunmen who claimed over 160 lives. “After bhai’s death,we approached several senior lawyers to handle the case. Bhai was almost on the verge of winning the case. He had brilliantly put up the case. But barring one lawyer,everyone refused to take up the case. It took them no time to disassociate from us,” said Khalid.

The film,according to Khalid,is a combination of 95 per cent fact and five per cent fiction,a cinematic liberty the family readily allowed. In 123 minutes,Mehta has managed to encapsulate every significant aspect of Shahid’s life,he said. When actor Rajkumar Yadav,who plays Shahid in the film,was shooting at their office,Khalid’s mother Rehana summoned him home. “She wanted to see,how he (Yadav) looked,” Khalid said. His other three brothers too took equal interest in the film.

“Bhai’s story had to be told,and it has been told,” Khalid said. Over three years since Shahid’s death,his assailants,believed to be Bharat Nepali gang members,are behind bars. But the trial is yet to start. “The case has barely made any progress. Those Shahid worked for — the NGOs and rights activists and lawyers — have all but forgotten him,” Khalid said.

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