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Updated: December 28, 2011 13:45 IST

Mohammad Shafiq, the man who executed himself

Mahim Pratap Singh
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How the wait for an impending, precisely scheduled death, could prove to be more painful for a convict than death itself

“The hangman's noose is a curious thing,” says A.K. Khare, the Additional Inspector-General of Prisons in Madhya Pradesh. “Once the hanging is over, people come to the prison to collect bits of the hangman's rope. They consider it auspicious. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, everybody,” he says.

On August 9 this year, Mohammad Shafiq, after three unsuccessful attempts, finally succeeded in escaping the “auspicious” noose.

In the still dark hours of that Tuesday morning, Shafiq set himself on fire in his cell in the Indore jail. He succumbed to his burns a few days later.

A year and a half ago, Shafiq was sentenced to death by a Bhopal court for murder, as well as two one-year terms for attempted murder and attempted suicide. His appeal against the judgment was dismissed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court, which upheld the lower court's order but absolved him of the charge of attempted suicide.

In a strange way, Shafiq managed to defy the High Court's order on both counts. He chose not to be hanged — by committing suicide.

“The prison authorities told me he was constantly and progressively being consumed by his conscience and would tell other inmates that he would probably die of his guilt someday,” says Mohammad Rafiq, an Indore-based steel trader who collected Shafiq's body on behalf of his relatives in Bhopal.

Shafiq's murders

On February 3, 2009, his wife and four daughters, tired and happy after attending a local wedding, fell asleep in their one-room accommodation near the Ahl-e-Hadis Masjid in the Kabadkhana area of Old Bhopal.

Later in the night, Shafiq took a hammer and brutally bashed his pregnant wife Sanjida, and his two daughters, Rubina and Amina. His other two daughters, Ayna and Arsi, were eyewitnesses.

Ayna, 11 at the time, in statements to the police as well as in court, said that when she tried to flee, her father beat her up too. So she, along with her four-year old sister Arsi, went back to sleep.

The next morning, the police found five persons lying injured in a pool of blood at the house, with Shafiq standing nearby with some injuries on his person. The injured were rushed to the hospital. Rubina and Amina were declared brought dead; Sanjida succumbed to her injuries the next day.

Shafiq, in his defence, told the police that someone had killed his wife and daughters and injured him. His two daughters testified against him before the police and the court.


“Who knows why he killed his wife and innocent daughters? He lived in abject poverty and was really worried about getting his elder daughters married. His wife was pregnant with another baby and he probably didn't know how to deal with it all,” says Aziz Bhai, a steel merchant from Bhopal and a distant relative of Shafiq's.

“In fact, the night he killed his family, they had all come back from a wedding, and the kids had really enjoyed themselves. Perhaps the wedding worked on his insecurity about getting his daughters married. But if you ask me, he deserved the punishment he got. Even if the courts would not have sentenced him to death, god certainly would have,” he says.

Apart from a hammer, a knife and blood-stained clothes, investigating officer Chandrashekhar Shrivastava recovered from the scene of the crime a suicide note written on the back of a wedding invitation, which indicated that Shafiq's crime was one induced by poverty. The courts refused to admit that as evidence as it could not be proved that the note was indeed written by Shafiq.

No expert assessment

From the trial court records it is clear that no effort was made to arrive at an expert assessment of Shafiq's psychiatric condition and motives — evidence that could, in many countries around the world, have led to a mitigation of his sentencing.

“I happened to supervise a hanging, the only one yet, in Jabalpur,” Mr. Khare recalls. “At 10 p.m. we informed the convict of the hanging scheduled for 4 a.m. in the morning. The entire night we kept a close eye on the convict's cell. After all, being aware of the precise hour and time of one's death is disturbing knowledge. But he was surprisingly quiet. Now that I think about it, he must have died several deaths in those six hours.”

Often, the wait for an impending, precisely scheduled death, is more painful for a convict than death itself.

Shafiq's act of self-immolation reflects that fact, as perhaps nothing else could.

Its the evil of dowry system which has consumed a whole fmaily. Strangely the muslims have also imbibed the system of dowry a hatefull custom rather a crime, a sin and haram. If only muslims cut themselves off from this system which is haram in Islam will this type of henous crimes will end. It is strange in some parts of India the father of a girl is supposed to give gold in kgs, naturally Indian muslim will be scared to have a girl child and this is the end. The actual custom is to give mehar and no wonder women live with all pride in muslim contries and so do their fathers with out fear of future. Hope atleast the young muslims realise that taking and giving dowry is haram by law in islam.

from:  Shalima
Posted on: Dec 10, 2011 at 11:47 IST

Life sentence should be rarest of the rare and death sentence the norm, for all pre-planned murders. China, America etc follow this system. Most European countries which have abolished capital punishment can afford to keep the criminals in jail for half a century. In any case execution is a deserving punishment if an mentally normal adult makes a pre-planned killing and it is proven forensically and circumstantially.
Those who are against death penalty have the blood of murdered children in their hands. We are not all gandhis and budhas. There are hitlers amongst us.

from:  Jaykrishnan B
Posted on: Nov 30, 2011 at 10:00 IST

Stories from death row

o “Mohammed Shafiq was really worried about getting his elder daughters married. His wife was pregnant” says Aziz Bhai.
What do you really mean by that ‘really’ Bhai?
o “In a strange way, Shafiq managed to defy the High Court's order on both counts. He chose not to be hanged — by committing suicide.”
i. Yes, he chose not to die at others hands.
ii. Shafiq not only ‘managed’ to defy the High Court's order, but the Indian Constitution, System and Government Policies too.
iii. Is it that easy for self immolation inside a prison cell for a death convict that too just few hours before his hanging?
o “The entire night we kept a close eye on the convict's cell” Mr. Khare said.
Perhaps “d” missing after 'close’ it must be ‘closed eyes’.
o Mohammed Shafiq's act of self-immolation reflects that fact, ‘the state of affairs in the state’ perhaps nothing else could.
Let’s hope the Honourable High Court that awarded punishment takes this case ‘suo motu’ for enquiry.

from:  jayabalan
Posted on: Oct 24, 2011 at 12:22 IST

Dowry is big suicide is.....

from:  Masarrat Ayub
Posted on: Oct 21, 2011 at 19:03 IST

A sad and gruesome act at the same time of this mentally disturbed. In India religion does not free parents death trap when it comes to marriage. Western system is the only way for marriages. the sooner Indian girls get liberated and edicated, this type of crime may not appear as news.

from:  Jayanthi
Posted on: Oct 21, 2011 at 17:36 IST

I can proudly say I have married without taking even a single penny as dowry...i hope the new generation learns lessons themselves and try to eradicate this dowry virus as soon as possible.

from:  Anoop
Posted on: Oct 21, 2011 at 16:16 IST

Sure the crimes committed are gruesome and the act of the accused generates a repulsive picture in the mind. But what greater punishment can a man get than having to live with a kind of guilt which finally consumed him. Dying in an instant is less painful than having to live with a dead soul for years.

from:  Mary
Posted on: Oct 21, 2011 at 13:42 IST

This is very shocking indeed. I believe Shafiq would have been troubled by the wedding function which he attended that night. It's rightly said that he would have felt insecure about getting his daughters married. The expensive wedding functions that are conducted today are a display of pride and exhibition of oneself/family that they are better/rich/popular than others. We have such a great responsibility to stand against social evils like dowry. I am a young man and I will have a simple dowry free marriage. I wish there are many young men in our country who will stand against similar social evils and help our fellow citizens to not go into such depraved mindset.

from:  Godfrey Wilson
Posted on: Oct 21, 2011 at 12:49 IST

I am surprised and apalled that a murderer's suicide has been described as defying law. Especially the last 2 sentence of the article indicate him to be an innocent man. When people give into their instincts, they turn to animals. And all this talk about commuting death sentences to life, it is mockery of the family of the deceased person and is nothing but pseudo-righteousness.

from:  Divya
Posted on: Oct 21, 2011 at 09:22 IST
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