Kolkata: The rigors of a lawsuit sometimes change the course of life in the fullness of time. Similar is the story of Lalu Alam, a former youth wing leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) who was acquitted of charges of attempting to murder present West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee after 29 years in September this year.
After the exoneration, Alam has now dedicated his life to the larger cause of the society by teaching slum children and victims of substance abuse in his neighbourhood. He calls it “Prayashchit” (atonement) for plunging into politics at a young and vulnerable age.
As per the prosecution, on 16 August 1990, prime accused Alam hit Banerjee, who was a Congress leader at that time, on the head with a stick during a rally at Hazra Crossing in South Kolkata. The impact fractured her skull and left her fighting for her life in the hospital for over a month.
Authorities booked a dozen people but, except Alam, the others either went on the run or eventually died. After completing the investigation, police submitted the charge sheet in Alipore court while issuing arrest warrants against the fugitives.
On September 12, 2019, Alam was acquitted due to a lack of evidence. The judgment was pronounced by additional district judge Pushpal Satpathi, who decided to acquit Alam due to lack of evidence.
“When I look back, I only see decades of darkness. I did my matriculation from Modern School but could not complete my higher education. That was a major turning point in my life as I found myself on the wrong track. Whatever happened in the past, I repent today. Therefore, I have decided to serve slum children by providing basic education and to rescue youths who are into drugs,” Alam told News18 a month after his acquittal.
A resident of Kolkata’s Park Circus, Alam felt that it’s only education that can build a better and refined society. “I wasted my valuable days without educating myself. I don’t want these children to follow the same path. They have immense potential. They just need a little bit of support. Besides, I have plans in store for the girls dwelling in the slums. I will teach them health and hygiene apart from basic education. I know it is a daunting task but I am sure more people will join me for this noble cause,” he said.
Alam has sought help from his friends and family to collaborate with him and urged them to provide him with the old books that are usually sold to rag pickers.
“There is nothing better than books in this world. Since we have some financial issues, I have requested my relatives and friends to gift old books for these slum children."
The former CPI(M) youth wing leader has also been in touch with a doctor and psychiatrist for the rehabilitation of teen drug abuse victims. "I don’t know how I will do it, but I am determined and not willing to give up,” Alam said.
The incident proved to be a major turning point in Banerjee’s political career as it sparked a wave of support for her. A year later, she won the general elections from the Calcutta South constituency and was appointed the minister of state for human resource development, youth affairs and sports, and women and child development by the then prime minister PV Narasimha Rao.
In the past few years, Banerjee had expressed a desire to pardon Alam and party sources said she wanted to end the case on humanitarian grounds, citing the deteriorating health of the accused who is now over sixty years old.