The last time someone was hanged in India, I was asked to cover the hanging – LIVE!
The convict was Dhanojoy Chatterjee. Chatterjee was hanged on his birthday on August 14, 2004, at Alipore Central Jail in Kolkata, India, at 4.30 am. He was a security guard who was executed for the murder (following a rape) of 14-year-old Hetal Parekh on March 5, 1990 at her apartment residence in Bhowanipur.
That was the last hanging India witnessed. Next would be Ajmal Kasab, if the rest of Kasab’s pleas fall into deaf ears.
Dhanonjoy’s family refused to either attend the execution or claim his body; it was later cremated. That was the first execution in India after Auto Shankar was hanged on April 27, 1995.
Caustically, I shared the same last name with the convict (Chatterjee). I was working with a renowned Indian newspaper daily at that time, and the editor thought I could be passed off as Dhanojoy’s sister or some sort of a family member. (At least, that was the reason I was given.)
Veteran and envious senior reporters congratulated me wryly for the ‘plump’ assignment, while I began seeping into a slow nervous breakdown. I spent several sleepless nights and stopped eating anything for three long days.
Apparently, they were all waiting for permission from the family of Dhanonjoy, to pass me off as family, since by the order of the Supreme Court, one family member was allowed to be present at the hanging site.
And the “chosen” one was me.
Fortunately for me, the hair-brain idea was called off the day before the hanging. I was spared of the horror and sadism was spared from journalism that day. I finally slept a peaceful night’s sleep.
Of course, sadism is an integral part of journalism.
My editor and senior journalists thronged outside the jail campus at 4 am on the day of the hanging. They had the front page layout done, with a report of the hanging ready at office. As soon as the news-team heard the sound of the gallows in that deadly silence of the night, and confirmed the death with the guard, the editor called office and the page was sent to print.
That newspaper was perhaps the only newspaper in India to have reported the hanging live.
Published in CanIndia News, Toronto August 31, 2012. Here