Sunday, August 15, 2004




Convicted killer is hanged in India's first execution since 1995

CALCUTTA, India -- An 84-year-old hangman, brought out of retirement, carried out the first execution in nine years early Saturday in India, where the death penalty is reserved for ''the rarest of rare cases.''

Dhananjay Chatterjee, who was executed before dawn at the Alipora Correctional Home, had been on Death Row since his 1991 conviction for raping and smothering a 14-year-old girl who lived in the apartment building where he worked as a security guard.

Nata Mullick, a third-generation executioner, was assisted by his son and grandson. He also carried out the last hanging in West Bengal state in 1991. The last execution in all of India was in 1995.

No one at the Alipora prison remembered the last time the gallows was used, so the iron lever and footboard had to be tested repeatedly and the rope waxed with soap and ripe bananas, Mullick said before the execution. He carried out several trial hangings with sandbags weighing the same as Chatterjee.

''Criminals like Chatterjee ought to be hanged so that others don't commit such crimes,'' said the hangman, running his fingers through his shiny silver hair. ''I'm only making society safer.''

His fee for the hanging: $435 and a post for his grandson as a maintenance worker at the jail for $56 a month.