Calcutta, Aug. 14: He had 24 hangings under his belt; he had physically dragged convicts to their deaths and did not flinch even once while pulling the lever of death on a friend who recognised him and begged him for his life.
Yet, after he sent Dhananjoy Chatterjee to his death for raping and killing Hetal Parekh, 84-year-old veteran hangman Nata Mullick looked crushed and broke into tears. He had to be consoled by jail officials, almost as though a relative had died.
“Nata’s reaction to the hanging was amazing,” said a jail official. “Who would have believed this man, to whom carrying out a hanging is second nature, would suddenly break down like this' It was a totally unexpected reaction.”
Looking back at the final hanging of his career, Mullick later said he could not quite explain his own reaction. “There was no resistance from Dhananjoy, which was unusual, and he cooperated with me in every way.
“So when I pulled the lever and he dropped straight down, I felt sick to the bottom of my stomach.”
Turning to prison officials, Mullick said: “My job is done; now let me go. I don’t want to stay here any longer.”
Then he stepped down from the podium and started to cry. “Mujhe bahut bura laga. Main IG saab ko pakad kar rone laga (I felt very bad; I held the IG and started crying),” Mullick said. He also recounted his experience on STAR News.
A jail official then said, “Nata, I have never seen you like this. If you keep behaving like this then you will get a heart attack.” Wearily, Mullick stopped crying and sat down to regain his composure.
After the mandatory 30 minutes — a convict’s body has to remain suspended for half an hour before it is brought down according to the jail code — it is Mullick who has usually taken the lead in bringing the body down.
But today, he took the backseat. He directed his two sons and a grandson, who assisted him with the hanging, to bring down the body, pointing out the correct way to do it.
“I could feel that something was wrong with my father while we were fixing the noose from around 3.30 in the morning,” said Taraknath, Mullick’s eldest son. “He was behaving as though something was amiss.”
Taraknath said as the time of the hanging drew closer, one of the jail staff said Dhananjoy was singing Mera jeevan kora kagaz, kora hi reh gaya (My life is an empty page — meaning a wasted life).
“My father suddenly turned around and said this was a correct description of his life as well.”
“Maybe it was also the fact that no person about to be hanged looks at me straight in the eye,” Mullick said. “But Dhananjoy did, even though he was believed to be afraid of meeting me since I symbolised his death. I never expected it since this has not been my experience in the past.”
Mullick left the jail not in a taxi, as he normally does, but in an ambulance. “People at home were really surprised when my father reached home in an ambulance and were worried about what had happened to him,” Taraknath said.