In her19-year battle to seek justice for the killing of her son, Neelam Chandna has not missed a single important court hearing. When her husband died four days later of a heart attack, she pressed on.
Last week finally, the Supreme Court upheld the life imprisonment awarded by the Uttarakhand High Court to seven persons for killing Alok. The 21-year-old had been beaten up and stabbed in September 1996 over a row during elections in his DAV College. The college is known to have produced many leaders who went on to join politics.
“I have finally got justice and I am happy. After the judgment, I offered prayers at a temple and visited the house of my lawyer Umesh Arora to express my gratitude,” Neelam, 61, said.
Alok, her elder son, was a good student, and earned extra money giving coaching classes, she says. The younger one, Ashish, 19, was still studying at the time. It was difficult to carry on when her husband Surendra Chandna died, she says.
“Ashish could not do any professional course. He did just his graduation. Jo kamaane wale the woh chale gaye (Those who were earning were no more),” Neelam says. “But I took a firm decision to fight my legal battle to ensure justice for my son.” Now Ashish has his own business and supports his mother financially.
She still remembers Alok’s excitement about the student polls. “He wanted to contest for the post of general secretary in the Commerce faculty. Those convicted tried to stop him.”
Ashish says Alok had the potential to win the polls, which is why the others tried to stop him.
A pall of gloom hangs over the house of Dhiraj Kala, one of those sentenced to life. “I don’t want to say anything right now. I am exploring legal options,” says Dheeraj’s mother Raj Kalra.
Others who were convicted were Rishi Kumar, Som Prakash, Saurabh, Nitin, Bhagat Singh and Sanjeev Kumar. They had gone to the Supreme Court against a high court order confirming their conviction in 2011.
Established in 1904, the Dehradun-based DAV College has a string of leaders as alumni such as former Nepal PM Lokendra Bahadur Chand. Several MLAs of the Uttarakhand Assembly were earlier student leaders at DAV College.
“Alok’s death was a very unfortunate incident. Finally, law prevailed,” Principal Devendra Bhasin told The Indian Express.
Professor R B Pandey, who teaches sociology in DAV college, said, “Clashes between different groups of students are common. But things have changed much since the implementation of the Lyngdoh Committee’s recommendations for holding polls of students’ unions.”