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'I hanged my first victim when I was 16'

Sakyasen Mittra

Posted: Jun 18, 2004 at 1742 hrs IST

Meanwhile, Bengal hangman teaches his grandson the ropes

In the City of Joy, a bizarre story is taking shape.

On June 25, Nata Mallick, West Bengal’s veteran hangman, will watch his grandson Prabhat place the noose around a man’s neck for the first time. At that moment, the world will crumble around Bangshidhar and Belarani Chatterjee, parents of Dhananjoy, the man who will be hanged for raping and murdering a young girl on March 5, 1990.

With eight days to go, Mallick is busy teaching his grandson the twists of the trade. On the other side, all appeals for pardon turned down, Dhananjoy’s parents are desperately hoping that the courts will hear their final plea: ‘‘Hang him after we die.’’

Bangshidhar admits that his son deserves the punishment, but that hasn’t prevented him from rushing to Kolkata to inquire whether the courts will heed his peculiar request.

‘‘I am 76 and Dhananjoy’s mother is 70. How many days do we have to live? My son has been imprisoned for the last 14 years, can’t the courts wait for a few more years before hanging him?’’ asks Bangshidhar, who stays with his younger son in a Midnapore village.

The father confesses that he was reluctant to appeal for his son’s life, ‘‘but his mother forced me to do it. Even today, I have come to Kolkata at the insistence of his mother. Won’t the government bless us with this merciful act? I am a poor man but for this, I will even sell my six bighas of land.’’

Meanwhile, Mallick is teaching his grandson the art of tying the noose. The veteran makes his own ropes with ‘‘secret’’ ingredients, including herbs. ‘‘The last three generations of my family have been involved in this trade. My son wanted to opt out and the State Government provided him with a job.

So I decided to pass on the art to my grandson,’’ he says.

Prabhat, he adds, will be the leader of the execution team on D-Day.

‘‘He will cover the face of the man with the black hood, tie his hands and tie the knot. I will be the supervisor,’’ says Mallick, who is proud that his grandson is taking up from where he left.

‘‘It’s good. Otherwise, the state would have been forced to bring in hangmen from outside.’’

West Bengal last saw a hanging on August 21, 1991, when Mallick placed the noose around the necks of Sukumar Burman and Kartick Seal in succession. ‘‘I have the mental and the physical strength to hang 10 persons in succession,’’ he boasts.

But doesn’t he ever look back with regret? ‘‘I hanged my first victim when I was 16. After that, I asked my father whether I had sinned. He replied that performing your duty for the country is not a sin. I have no regrets.’’

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