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Walk to death with respect
Air of calm in final hours

Calcutta, Aug. 13: At seven this evening, some hours before the hanging, officials of Alipore Central Jail carried out what they call the “ritual of death”.

As Dhananjoy Chatterjee, convicted of raping and murdering 14-year-old Hetal Parekh, stood in one corner of cell no. 3, jail superintendent Ranjit Mondal read out the death warrant, explaining the sections under which he had been charged and said that on August 14 at 4.30 am he would “be hanged till he died”.

Dhananjoy looked at the ground and, raising his head slowly, said: “I am reconciled to my hanging. Let me be led respectably to the gallows and not be forced along. I will not resist.”

If yesterday Dhananjoy was a shattered man, crying and wailing minutes after the Supreme Court turned down the petition filed by his brother, today he was much more composed, praying for a large part of the day and breaking down only once as he remembered his wife and family.

The only discordant note he struck was when, this morning, he smashed the FM radio set which had been his link to the outside world. “Its work is over, I will not need it any longer,” he told warders.

At his request, devotional songs, mainly by Anup Jalota, were played in the jail through the day and he kept to himself, only occasionally speaking to the warders. So when Dhananjoy made his request that he should be allowed to walk to the gallows and not be led by his arm, the authorities agreed.

As they were leaving his cell, he told them of the “only worry” he would carry to his death. “What will happen to my wife and my family'”

Back at Kuludih village in Bankura, Dhananjoy’s family is still refusing to accept the reality. “Some divine power will definitely save my son,” his father Banshidhar said. The family spent much of the day sending mercy petitions to the President in the hope he would stall it at the last moment.

His wife Purnima, mother Belarani and brother Bikash faxed three separate petitions to the President to “save” Dhananjoy. Purnima pleaded that “nobody is there to look after me… how can I spend my life without my husband'”

Belarani implored the President to “feel the severe agony of a mother” when her son dies. “This is my last prayer,” she added in the petition before making a “final appeal to save the life of my son”.

Brother Bikash, who this morning had been planning to come to Calcutta, at least to collect his brother’s body, changed his mind later and decided to stay back in the village. “We will neither be present during the hanging nor shall we collect the body,” he said.

Jail officials said that, in the absence of family members coming to collect the body, Dhananjoy would be cremated by the Hindu Satkar Samity.

Dhananjoy has expressed the wish that he be allowed to bathe inside the cell after he is woken at 2 am, and not outside in a common lot as has been the practice. He would then be given a set of new clothes — a pair of pyjamas and a fatua (vest) — to put on and would then pray for half-an-hour before he is led to the gallows.

Late tonight, Dhananjoy told warders that he wanted to be left alone to reflect on his wasted life. “The best years of my life I have spent within the confines of a cell when I could have done so much more with it,” he told them.

“I still believe I would have lived had my case been handled properly. Now let me be. The few hours that I have left are very precious to me.”

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