Although the identity of Shahid Azmi’s killers and their motives have still not been established, it is not a surprise that the criminal lawyer had long been on the underworld’s hit list.
Azmi, a former TADA detainee, was well known for his stand against the establishment especially what he called the “corrupt machinery”. He had represented more than half a dozen persons accused of terrorist or anti-national activities, the latest being 26/11 accused Fahim Ansari. According to those close to him, Azmi attracted the attention of a section of the underworld that claims to be ‘nationalist’.
Ravi Pujari, a Bangkok-based fugitive and underworld kingpin has long projected himself as a nationalist. He has targeted lawyers who represent alleged terrorists and criminals accused of anti-national activities.
Pujari allegedly threatened Azmi in 2006 after the latter decided to represent those accused of the July 11, 2006 serial train blasts in Mumbai. In 2007, Pujari’s men allegedly made an unsuccessful attempt on Azmi’s life. But protection for Azmi was withdrawn soon after he made some statements against the police.
In April 2009, Naushad Kashimji, a 50-year-old lawyer representing Chhota Shakeel aide Rashid Malabari, was gunned down allegedly by two of Pujari’s men in Mangalore. Kashimji had defended two alleged Indian Mujahideen operatives, Mohammad Ali and Javed Ali.
In July 2005, Pujari’s men opened fire at a car in which criminal lawyer Majeed Memon was travelling in Bandra. Though Memon escaped unhurt, Pujari called media houses claiming responsibility for the incident.