October 18, 2006.
It was a sultry evening, three months after seven blasts ripped through suburban trains killing 188 people.
I received information that advocate Shahid Azmi had
been threatened by the underworld. Azmi was defending Faizal Sheikh, the alleged mastermind and executor of the serial train blasts. I went to the police commissioner’s office and found him at the citizens’ facilitation centre. Dressed in his trademark white shirt and black trousers, Azmi was waiting to see then police commissioner A.N. Roy.
He was carrying a copy of the complaint he had filed a day ago at Kurla police station. His complaint said he had received a phone call from a person
claiming to be from the Ravi Pujari gang.
He looked restless.
“I received the call at 7.14 pm on Tuesday [October 17, 2006] from phone number 022-25449658,” Azmi said. “The caller told me I will be gunned down outside the court just like the two undertrials.”
Azmi was referring to the shootout outside sessions court. Two undertrials facing charges of drug running were killed.
One of them was a police informer. “The police commissioner has refused to meet me. The constables at the citizens' facilitation centre say that the time for accepting complaints and applications ends at 4:30 pm,” said Azmi. “Who is to be blamed if they [the underworld] execute the threat?”
Why was he being targeted, I asked. “I don’t think it’s only me. This is not the first threat I have received,” said Azmi. “A month ago, I received a call warning me not to represent the blast accused.”
Azmi said that the anonymous caller had told him his movements were being monitored and that he would be killed either at his residence or office in Kurla. He also said that the man who has been asked to execute Pujari’s threats had visited his residence to confirm his address. “My brother told me a young man had come asking if I lived there. Today, I was being followed all day,” Azmi said.
Four years later, on Thursday evening, was the same threat executed? Only the Mumbai police will have answers.
(Stavan is Assistant Editor, Hindustan Times, Mumbai)