Lalung, a year before he died. Picture by Sarat Sarma
Silchang (Morigaon), Dec. 27: Fifty-four years in unjust confinement stole most of Machang Lalungs memories.
Death stole his breath just when he was beginning to savour some of his simple pleasures again the heady smell and taste of jooh, the chase for crabs in muddy waters, a small chat with a friendly face.
The man who hit the headlines a couple of years ago for having spent 54 years in jail without trial died last night of old-age ailments. He was 79.
Silchang, his native village, gave Lalung a farewell befitting a hero before his body was consigned to flames this afternoon.
Most villagers thought Lalung deserved the treatment.
After all, he had single-handedly put this nondescript village in Morigaon on the itinerary of uppity government officials.
The National Human Rights Commission discovered Lalung during a survey of the state of undertrial prisoners, by which time he had spent more than half-a-century in jail.
He was released in July 2005.
With a compensation of Rs 3 lakh from the state government and a monthly stipend of Rs 1,000, Lalung stepped into his native village for a new life. But too much had changed by then.
He was a complete stranger for all but five of his contemporaries, who recalled how Lalung had killed another man in a fit of rage and then surrendered to the police.
He was just beginning to enjoy his freedom, said Nagen Manta, a villager, at the cremation ground.
And he was so active till just a few days ago ... his most important activity was hunting for crabs in the nearby Ghilakhola stream. In the evenings, he enjoyed a sip or two of jooh, our traditional brew, he said.
Lalung has died of old-age ailments, declared Nellie state dispensary doctor Jayanta Nath.
On December 15, he fell down and injured himself while working at home. He was admitted to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital on December 17. He was brought home a few days later but died at 9.30pm last night.
Few will miss him as much as Sumbor, Lalungs grandson, who followed the old man like a shadow. His grandfathers death reminded him of all that was promised to him but was never fulfilled. The government, for instance, had promised to build a house for him.
Lalung had forgotten most things about his life before jail.
He was of late showing signs of remembering events and people from some distant past, said a villager.
A tad too late, perhaps.