Sun, Aug 22, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Calcutta hangman profiting from his noose

AFP , CALCUTTA

Indian hangman Nata Mallick displays a hanging knot made with a towel at his residence, in Calcutta, India. Mallick carried out India's first execution in nine years on August 14, when he hanged apartment guard Dhananjoy Chatterjee at 4:30am in a prison in Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal state.

PHOTO: AFP

He retired after carrying out India's first execution in nearly a decade, but Calcutta's veteran hangman is still in the business. He is selling strands of his final noose -- rumored to have magical powers -- and finding both a ready market and revulsion.

Nata Mallick, 83, ended his career on August 14 when he hanged Dhananjoy Chatterjee, an apartment guard convicted in the rape and murder of a teenaged girl.

He has since cashed in on a superstition that a hangman's noose possesses occult powers that can uplift the sick and poor. For a price, Mallick sells lockets made from snippets of the noose that broke Chatterjee's neck.

"He is pure evil," Sujato Bhadro, secretary of the anti-death penalty Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights, said of the hangman.

"This sinful man has no right to do this in Calcutta where saints like Mother Teresa worked for hundreds who had given up hope to live," Bhadro said, referring to the Albanian-born nun who was beatified last year.

Mallick, who has hanged 25 people, shrugs off the criticism at his new-found trade.

"It is a proven fact that a used noose has magic power and it works miracles for those having a spate of bad luck, flopped business and heavy debt," the retired executioner told reporters. He says he accepts whatever money is offered him for a noose-locket. And he has plenty to sell.

Mallick has chopped up Chatterjee's noose into miniscule pieces, ensuring there are plenty to sell. For those who don't want to splurge on the freshly used noose, old ropes are also available, Mallick said.

"I collected all the nooses that were lying in the jail when I went there to execute Dhananjoy Chatterjee," Mallick said.

He said he would sell lockets from Chatterjee's noose for around 2,000 rupees (US$43). Lockets from the old ropes, which, as for the Indian prison manual, are each six meters long were 500 rupees (US$11). Mallick had a salary of 5,000 rupees (US$110) per execution, although his fee was doubled for his finale this month.

Among the buyers was Joyprakash Mitra, an unemployed 30-year-old whose grandfather advised him to carry a noose-locket.

"I tried my luck with many things. Now I want to try the magic power of the noose," said Mitra, who declined to say how much he paid.

The hangman claims that hundreds of buyers had come to him. While the number could not be verified, Babu Roy, who owns a tea stall on the road to Mallick's ramshackle house, said the crowds had been significant.

"My daily sales have doubled as people are stopping by my shop while going to meet Mallick," Roy said.

"This rope locket has become a new craze," he said. "They are becoming costlier by the day."

Others are less amused. Ajoy Banerjee of Calcutta's revered Kalighat temple called the trade "sordid."

"His aim is just to earn money," said Banerjee, the secretary of the temple management board, who said the Hindu clergy at Kalighat planned a campaign against the lockets. "We are worried that scores of unwed women and jobless youths are thronging the hangman's home for rope lockets," Banerjee said.

Mallick's outspoken passion for his job helped fuel criticism in the run-up to his last execution. A jail official said Mallick fell ill at the gallows and was carried away on a stretcher after the hanging.

The official claimed that Mallick may have had too many drinks.

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