Islampur, Aug. 20: Five Congress workers were sentenced to life imprisonment by a fast track court here today in connection with the 2003 murder of CPM leader, Akbar Ali.
Sanjib Sharma, who presided over the first fast track court, also exonerated 33 Congress leaders and workers, including the present Trinamul Congress MLA from Chopra, Hamidul Rehman, and Chopra block Congress president, Ashok Roy.
The life sentence was served on Golam Mustafa, Riazul Islam, Nurul Islam, Bhulua alias Bhola and Gautam Adhikary. Among them, Golam Mustafa, is the president of the Congress’s Ghirnigaon anchal committee.
Ali, an influential CPM leader of Chopra, was attacked in the party office in the Lalbazar area of Chopra by alleged Congress workers and supporters on April 30, 2003. Ali, who was hit on the head with an iron rod, died while being taken to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital. Ali’s murder had triggered a chain of violent incidents like police firing and revenge killings in the Islampur subdivision.
Alleged CPM supporters attacked a police outpost, where Hamidul and Ashok Roy had reportedly taken shelter. The police retaliated by opening fire, killing three persons. In a series of violent clashes in the following days, four Congress supporters were also killed.
A large crowd gathered at the court today to hear the verdict. Among them was Akbar Ali’s widow, Alema Khatun. She regretted that while five were sentenced to life, the main perpetrators of the murder had been let off. “My husband’s killers have been punished, but my only regret is that those who gave the orders to kill my husband were let off. I will appeal against this verdict in the high court,” she said.
According to court sources, 38 people had been named in the complaint filed by the CPM following Akbar Ali’s murder. Among the accused were Hamidul Rehman and Ashok Roy. The 38 were charged under Section 307 (attempt to murder) and Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code.
Kaiser Choudhury, government lawyer, said there were 27 witnesses who had deposed in the case. “Barring the five, the 33 others were acquitted by the court that gave them the benefit of doubt,” he said.
After the 28-page verdict was delivered, Hamidul said he was relieved. “The CPM hatched a conspiracy and falsely implicated us in this case. Ten years of tension that I had been suffering are now over and the CPM’s conspiracy is exposed,” said the Trinamul MLA.
Ashok Roy, however, said he was not happy with the verdict. “We have been acquitted. But, five of our party supporters have been awarded life sentences. One of them, Golam Mustafa, is the Ghirigaon anchal president of the party and also a clerk with a high madarsa. We will appeal against the verdict in the high court,” Roy said.