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Makram Ali Laskar: Legal luminary from Assam no more
One of the reputed lawyers from Assam, Makram Ali Laskar breathed his last on January 10. Veteran lawyer Makram Ali Laskar was not just a legal luminary; he was a great human being too.
Born in 1935 at Nitainagar village, Hailakandi in the then district of Cachar, Assam, Makram Ali Laskar had his early education at his village pathsala.
Laskar completed his Matriculation from Government Victoria Memorial High School, Hailakandi in 1952 and passed 10+2 from Gurucharan College, Silchar, in 1955. Laskar studied BA from Cotton College, Gauhati and then took his law degree from Gauhati University in 1962. Laskar also earned a Masters in Political Science from the same university.
Laskar joined the Gauhati High Court Bar as practicing lawyer and spend his time in researching and studying with Late Justice BL Hansaria who also joined the bar about the same time before Justice Hansaria joined as a District and Session’s Judge, who eventually became judge of the Supreme Court of India. Justice Hansaria noted his companionship and scholarly association with Laskar in his memoirs.
During 1969-1976, Laskar taught law in the Department of Law, Gauhati University, Guwahati. In 1976, he was appointed as the Standing Counsel for Union of India in the Gauhati High Court. He also worked as a Assam government panel advocate in the Gauhati High Court in the beginning of his career.
Laskar commanded a large private practice in civil, criminal and constitutional matters. He was designated as a senior advocate of Gauhati High Court in 1986 along with five other noted advocates. All of them were legal stalwarts of their time.
Laskar was a sincere and dedicated lawyer and he received many offers to serve in higher judiciary but always preferred to practice and remain active in Bar than a higher office.
Laskar was also appointed as an additional advocate general, Assam, in 1991. Former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi in a note wrote about Late Makram Ali as – “An amalgam of steadfastness and gentleness” while discussing Laskar’s performance as additional advocate general.
Due to high blood pressure and health problems, Laskar had to cut short his legal career where he last appeared in a case in 2002 before the court of Late Justice JN Sharma.
Laskar finally bade adieu to his noble profession on health grounds but his guidance to the young lawyers was indeed commendable. Many of his mentees in law mentioned about his amicability and excellence in his mentorship. One of his juniors who practiced in Laskar’s chamber was Justice Aftab Hussain Saikia, who retired as Chief Justice of Jammu & Kashmir High Court and currently chairperson of Assam Human Rights Commission.
Justice Saikia shared his memory with his mentor as: “During the time of my initial practice, I used to come from my permanent residence to attend the chamber of Laskar sir as I could not afford to have a rented house at Guwahati and my residence was too far from the chamber. It was a very hard life. One fine morning in 1977, Laskar sir asked me to accompany him to a place near his residence. He took me to a room in the proximity of his house. It was a big furnished room with all minimum requirements and a separate kitchen. When I enquired ‘Why have you shown me this room sir?’, he replied, ‘From now, you will stay in this house.’ Then I told him that I had no money to pay the rent. He said ‘Don’t bother for the rent. I will pay the rent. Your only duty is to attend my chamber regularly.”
Apart from his successful career in law, Laskar was a voracious reader of works from Shakespeare, Tagore and Kazi Nazrul. He was very fond of folk music of Assam.
The social life of MA Laskar is equally remarkable. He never hesitated to call a spade a spade. He was a practicing Gandhian and believed in the principle of non-violence and was inspired by the freedom fighter and first education minister of India Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Politically, a Gandhian, Laskar was closely associated with Sarat Chandra Sinha and was heavily involved with anti-emergency movements in the late 1970s. He also unsuccessfully fought elections in 1983 as Congress (Socialist) candidate from Hailakandi legislative assembly that was a splinter group formed in protest against the tyranny of Indira Gandhi during emergency.
Hailing from the famous ‘Laskar clan’ of Nitainagar in the district of Hailakandi, Assam, he was born to merchant Habib Ali Laskar who died leaving behind eight children on their own struggles. However, their mother Masurjan Bibi ensured that all her children get education and get succeeded in the struggles they were facing. Advocate Laskar left behind his younger brother, Nurul Huda Laskar, who is the senior-most lawyer in the Hailakandi District Bar. Another lawyer brother, a noted public prosecutor, Nurul Islam Laskar passed away in 2012. The other brothers who had taken the path of family business were Moin Laskar, Gias Laskar and Siraj Laskar.
Two of his sons Azim Laskar and Imran Laskar are noted lawyers who are practicing in the Supreme Court and Gauhati High Court.
Advocate Laskar is survived by a large family who gathered in Gandhi Basti, Guwahati to perform his last rites as they were reminisce the glorious history of the ‘Laskar clan’ and its legacy in the history of Assam.
The author of this article, along with the younger son of Advocate Laskar, Imran Laskar are compiling a brief history of Nitainagar Laskar clan of Assam – an integral part of the historic colonial legacy of Assam Muslims who are targeted by a vicious circle in Indian politics as Bangladeshi immigrants without knowing an iota of the history and contribution of Muslim clans, societies across Assam who are equal ‘Bhumiputras- sons of the soil’ of Assam and were active in Indian freedom struggle and stood steadfast against the partition of India and social movements that happened post-independent India.