A hangman's woe

JAMMU, AUG. 21. For Sadiq Massih — the official hangman of Jammu and Kashmir, there has hardly been any work for the last 13 years.

Presently posted at the highly fortified Central Jail at Kot Bhalwal, which houses a number of foreign terrorists, Sadiq Massih joined the profession in 1991 when somebody told him that the Prisons Department has invited applications for the post of hangman.

The last hanging was in 1992, which he describes as his toughest job when he executed Raj Kumar of Udhampur who was convicted for killing his father and brother. Like the recent case of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, there was a debate on the death sentence. A number of human rights activists had made mercy pleas to the Governor and the President on behalf of Raj Kumar. But these pleas were turned down and he was hanged.

That was first and last hanging by Sadiq. He said: ``After the execution of Raj Kumar, I regretted and condemned my inner-self. But the next moment I felt liberated — I had performed the job which the Government had assigned to me. I am being paid for it. Society has to accept this harsh reality." But since then, the man has little work to do and the file of his promotion continues to shuttle from one table to another.

Sadiq says , "It is true that I have to hang , but that is my duty as a Government employee. My emotions are mine and I have never harmed anyone in my life. But the fact remains that there is hardly any job to perform for the last several years."