The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cry for forgiveness, claim of innocence

Calcutta, Aug. 14: Hands folded, the executioner stood before the man he was about to hang.

Baba, tumi amay khama koro, ami sarkar-er hukoom manchhi, amar aporadh nebe na. Tumi Bhagawan ke sesh baar shoron koro,” Nata Mullick pleaded. (Please forgive me, I am only following the government’s orders. Please take the name of the Lord for the last time.)

It was 4.27 in the morning. Dhananjoy Chatterjee had just completed his short walk from his cell to the gallows and was about to step on to the spot where the noose dangled when Mullick rushed up to him.

The veteran hangman has uttered such words before. The difference was this time there was more emotion in the customary pleading.

Dhananjoy looked unflustered. “Tomaar bhalo hobe, tumi tomar kaaj koro (May God bless you; you carry on with your task),” the man who raped and killed 14-year-old Hetal Parekh said. He then took the last few steps towards the platform and stood under the noose.

Mullick walked up the steps and moved Dhananjoy a little to his left so that he stood directly under the noose.

Jail officials, who have seen hangings in the past, said they were surprised at Dhananjoy’s calm even a couple of minutes before death. “Others have kicked about, some have tried to flee. But I have never seen anyone maintaining such composure a fraction away from death,” a senior official said.

“He did not flinch on seeing the noose and not a muscle in his face moved when it brushed against his face,” the official added. “He had so completely reconciled to his fate that he was anxious to get it over with.”

Another official said there was a distant look in Dhananjoy’s eyes “as though he was readying to meet his creator”. “He suddenly looked transformed, almost as though he had transported himself from this world to another,” the official said.

The black hood intruded like a stab of reality. The hangman took the hood and placed it on Dhananjoy’s head but paused briefly before pulling it down with one short tug.

But before he could take his place by the lever which would bring Dhananjoy crashing down, the convict suddenly cried out twice: “Ami nirdosh, ami aparadhi na, Ishwar apnader bhalo koruk (I am innocent, I am not a criminal. May the Lord bless you).”

The signal came almost immediately. Jail superintendent Ranjit Mondal dropped his white handkerchief — it was time to pull the lever.

For 40 seconds, Dhananjoy jerked in the pit below. Then the body turned still.

After the execution, Mullick looked crushed and broke into tears. “There was no resistance from Dhananjoy, which was unusual,” he said.

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