– Anwarulhaq Baig
Maulana Gulzar Ahmed Azmi, a staunch fighter for the oppressed people, especially innocent Muslim youth, implicated in false terror and criminal cases, and a prominent figure of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind in Maharashtra passed away in a hospital in Mumbai on August 20. He was 89. He was receiving treatment in hospital, but succumbed to his head injury after a slip-and-fall incident.
Heading a legal aid committee of the Jamiat-i-Ulama Maharashtra since its inception in 2007, Maulana Azmi was fearlessly offering legal aid to the people implicated in false cases by government agencies and the police.
Maulana Azmi was born in Mumbai on May 1, 1934. After getting primary education at a Urdu medium school, he went to Darul Uloom Deoband to complete higher education in Islamic studies. After joining Jamiat in 1954, Azmi held key positions from the local head to the state’s vice president. His journey in the quest for justice and civil rights started in the aftermath of the Bhiwandi and Jalgaon riots in 1970, when hundreds of Muslims were arrested, in spite of suffering heavy losses during the violence. The Jamiat came forward for the first time to get them released.
After 1992-1993 Mumbai riots, Maulana Azmi assisted the Srikrishna Commission, set up by the Government of Maharashtra to investigate the causes of the riots. Remarkably, the Commission in its findings, praised Jamiat-i-Ulama for helping it in collecting key evidence. Even Maulana Azmi himself translated the inquiry report into Urdu. Due to his resilient support, Jamiat has extended legal help to hundreds of accused in a number of cases, running across the country.
Maulana Azmi never cowed down the allegations or threats to his life while defending civil right cases. When asked about an imminent threat in defending the terror accused, he bravely replied that he did not fear for his life as he firmly believed that the time and place of his death were already decided. He was very active and remained involved in his routine legal aid activities even at the age of 90.
Azmi has been a member of the Maharashtra State Minority Commission from 2002-2005, and again in 2014. He is survived by six sons and three daughters. Expressing deep grief over his death, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind President Maulana Arshad Madani said Gulzar Azmi was associated with Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani and Jamiat at a very young age and spent his entire life serving the country and the community.