Nata Mullick convulsed after doing his duty

The mother of Dhananjoy Chatterjee at Bankura village after her son was put to death. — PTI

The mother of Dhananjoy Chatterjee at Bankura village after her son was put to death. — PTI  

KOLKATA, AUG. 14. After pulling the lever to execute the death sentence awarded to Dhananjoy Chatterjee for the rape and murder of teenaged-school girl Haren Pathak, the hangman, Nata Mullick, began to convulse.

With the aid of his son, Mullick climbed down the stairs, crying. Jail officials rushed to him. One of them, taking him into an embrace, said: "We know what strain you are under but tell yourself that you have done your duties. Collect yourself and go home in peace. Otherwise, you will fall sick."

Outside the Alipore Central Jail, beyond the 100-metre barricade along which gun-toting policemen stood all night, a few hundred people and a phalanx of TV crew and national and international newspaper reporters and photographers who had installed themselves since Thursday afternoon to capture the high drama came to life, their common object was to have a glimpse of Mullick and his assistants or to be able to obtain a detailed account of the hanging.

As soon as they stepped out, Mullick found himself whisked away by the media. His son Mahadeb who, along with Mullick, was taken to the jail on Thursday afternoon amid tight security, returned home quietly.

The IG, Prisons, Mr. Chakraborty said that efforts were made to fulfil Dhananjoy's wish to donate his eyes and kidneys but this could not be done in the absence of the requisite permission from the family.

According to reports from the prison, Dhananjoy brooded a great deal about his wife Purnima, now living with her family in the distant Bankura village. They were married for a month or so when he committed the heinous crime. "Life has been unkind to her [Purnima]. There is nobody to look after her. My family is very poor, saab [sir]. Please take care of them," a jail official quoted Dhananjoy as telling Mr. Chakraborty seconds before his death.

It is said that Dhananjoy flung the FM radio set, his only link with the outside world all these months against the wall of his cell. "It has lost its value to me," he said to a warder.

On Friday night, Dhananjoy had sweet curd and sweets and stretched himself on the spartan bed. He did not sleep a wink. At 2 a.m., the warders came to ask him for the ritual bath which he took for 45 minutes. "You don't have to worry about anything at all," he told the jail officials. "I will do everything myself." Bath finished he put on a new shirt and new pyjamas, made an offering to the picture of kali pasted on one corner of the cell wall, chanted from the holy scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita. Pujas over, he listened to the cassette of a Tagore song a couple of times and then heard a number of Hindi film songs on the tape recorder brought to him by one of the jail officials.

"I have hanged 24 others in my life. This is my last. I must say he (Dhananjoy) embraced death in the most dignified way," a misty-eyed Nata Mullick later commented.

At 6 a.m. in Kuldihi village in Bankura district, Dhananjoy's family heard the news of his hanging on the radio. His father, Bangshidhar, 74, shaking all over said: "I have been a faithful devotee of Goddess Kali for the past several years. I hoped there would be a divine intervention at the last moment and my son's life will be saved. Why did the goddess let me down?" wailed the old man. Dhananjoy's mother spent the night performing pujas at the nearby Kali temple till 2 a.m. on Saturday.

A distraught Purnima is following the rituals of a widow.

Debate revived

Dhananjoy's case appears to have reopened the old debate across the country: Should there be capital punishment?

In Kolkata, too, the anti-capital punishment lobbies took to the streets saying Dhananjoy did not get a fair trial and that the sentence could have been commuted to life imprisonment in the light of the fact that he had already spent 14 years in a condemned cell on borrowed time.

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