These days the name Nata Mallick is hitting the headlines with regularity. he is 83 and the government appointed hangman in the state of west bengal. what brings him to the limelight is the scheduled hanging of a man named dhananjoy chatterjee on the 25th of june 2004. accused of raping and killing a 16 year old school-girl in 1990. hetal parekh a student of a central calcutta (it was still calcutta then) school was appearing for her ICSE examinations. on the fateful day she returned home from school to find her mother away. she had left the keys to the flat with dhananjoy, who at that time worked as a security-guard in the building. he handed her the keys and followed her. he then raped and brutally killed her. after nearly 14 years, dhananjoy is to be hanged.
the media which was not so resourceful during the last hanging in the state (13 years back) has literally converted the event into a circus. nearly everyday we get to hear reports abt the indignation of human rights’ groups, the vocal protests from hetal’s ex-classmates, the convict’s parents’ appeals and nata mallick’s bargains. the hangman, being called to perform his duty after a long interval has used the opportunity to demand a job for his grandson. the government has promised to give him one, on condition that he double up as the official hangman in the event of any similar occasion.
this is certainly no happy occasion (like the mittal-bhatia wedding in paris), no death is. even if its a penalty for past crimes. there is a mood of curious anxiety regarding the execution of the death penalty. most people are of the opinion that nothing short of death would be enough to avenge the murder of hetal. yet one question would remain forever. agreed that dhananjoy is being punished in a manner that many would consider befitting for such a crime, but he would stick out like a sore thumb. nearly everyday, women are being raped and killed all over india, but how many do we hear of being hanged. or for that matter arrested and convicted.
in the priyadarshi matoo case (raped and killed by a stalker), the accused was allowed to go scot-free for lack of evidence(and critical contacts in the power corridors). while pronouncing his decision the helpless judge made his reservations clear abt the accused person’s innocence in no uncertain terms. these days the man is happily married. dhananjoy may be infamously immortalised as a poster-boy for social justice, but however harsh it sounds this is an isolated verdict. There are many women waiting on the sidelines, some for justice and some for the recognition of the crime committed against them. unfortunately, as of now the big picture does not seem bright enough to accomodate them all.