New Delhi, 27 December 2007
When Sachin Tendulkar scores a half-century, he becomes a headline in almost all important newspapers and other news media. But what about some one who has spent over half-a-century in jail without trial in court? Yes, that was Assam’s Machang Lalung who spent 54 precious years of his life in jail without being produced in court. But hardly many people had heard of him!! Not many newspapers gave a space to cover his pitiful story! Serious journalism, hee??
When this morning I read in the Telegraph , Kolkata about the death of Lalung at his native village in Assam on the Christmas day (25 December 2007), I felt bad for some time. He was just beginning to start his life afresh after being released from jail (mental prison) in July 2005 on a token personal bond of Re 1 after the intervention of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The NHRC discovered him in the Tezpur mental hospital while taking stock of the state of the undertrials in the state.
He was imprisoned for allegedly killing a person in a fit of rage. But that is not the story is really about. His story is about the injustice done to him in jail. He stands as a symbol of this great country's blatant failures to deliver speedy justice to the under trials. Speedy justice is a different thing in the case of Lalung. He was not even accorded a trial to prove his innocence or guilt. Certainly, fair trial is the basis for any true democratic society.
It is not Lalung alone, for sure. There are hundreds in this country a precious part of those lives are snatched ..... without trials.
After release, Lalung almost became a hero for his villagers and government babus continued to visit him. The government had promised Lalung many things, including a house to be built for him but did not fulfill. He was merely paid Rs 3 lakhs as compensation for being illegally detained for over a half century and in a mental hospital, although the doctors long back declared him fit for trial (In India trial of mentally ill prisoners is not allowed by law). He was reduced to such a state that he failed to recognize even his close relatives.