Murder of Shahid Azmi: Assault on the Heart of the Indian Democracy

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Thirty-two years old, Shahid Azmi, the defense counsel to the accused, framed by the police in the Malgaon case in Maharashtra, was gunned down in his office, execution style, by a five member assassination squad in broad daylight. In his very young career he became the voice of the downtrodden and defenseless, because he had suffered the heavy hand of the corrupt state police as a young boy of fifteen.

He reported to the police, many times, to no avail, about the threats he received from those who manipulate the justice system for sectarian purposes and kill those who get in the way.

Shahid Azmi, the defense attorney’s murder is more detrimental to the Indian democracy than many other terribly egregious murders that are in themselves the bane of Indian democracy and civil society.

All injustices, particularly murders are injurious to the functioning of a civil society. Even more detrimental to the functioning of democracy is state terrorism or the state turning a blind eye to the murder of citizens who try to keep the state honest. Injustices and mayhem perpetrated by the state against the minorities, as in Gujarat, under Chief Minister Mr. Modi, is almost universally known. There are many other states where political heavy weights run a parallel government through open intimidation, irrespective of the political party in power. Mr. Bal Thakery of Maharashtra is well known to wield such evil supra-state power.

The tribal people in Orissa and Chhattisgarh, Dalits in Bihar, Muslims and Christians in many states, particularly in Gujarat have suffered grievously. It has been well documented. The military and police have often been oppressive and brutal in states rife with long term ubiquitous rebellions. They end up feeding the cause that feeds the rebellion rather than being about a solution in states such as Kashmir, Nagaland and Mizoram as well the as the tribal belt of Central India.

Yet, with all these pitfalls and lamentable inadequacies, the Indian democracy has made great strides, because many brave and principled Indians have made great sacrifices to stand up and expose the corruption of power. Such efforts occasionally gather wider support and come to the notice of the Supreme Court of India. The Apex court occasionally feels obliged to intervene for the cause of justice, when the state government apparatus and the lower courts are completely overwhelmed by the sectarian attitudes, as in the case of Gujarat under Mr. Modi.

Indians owe a great debt of gratitude to these brave citizens, journalists and lawyers, the conscience keepers of the Indian democracy. They risk their safely to take up the cause and cases, to uphold the constitution of India that guarantees justice to the hapless accused, boxed in by the corrupt judicial system at the lower rungs of the justice system.

The murder of Shahid Azmi is not a murder of an individual only, it is a brazen effort to intimidate and ultimately obliterate the idea of justice and silence the voice of the Indian conscience. The central government of India should do its utmost to bring the murderers to justice, because it is an assault on the soul of the Indian constitution and state, much more grave than the terrorist that kills individuals or the thief that prowls in the darkness of night.

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