Nata Mullick, who executed more convicts than any other hangman in India, died peacefully on a hospital bed in Kolkata on Monday.
Mullick, 88, was West Bengal’s only official executioner and claimed 25 of the 55 people, who died by the gallows in free India.
Although the last official executioner is dead, about 200 convicts – no official figures are available, though – are believed to be in jails facing death sentences.
The most high profile of them is Mohammad Afzal Guru, sentenced to death for his role in the 2001 attack on Parliament.
Mullick hit the headlines in 2004, when he was brought back from retirement to execute Dhananjoy Chatterjee, a security guard at a south Kolkata apartment, for raping and killing 16-year old Hetal Parekh in 1991.
Chatterjee was the first person to be hanged in the country after Chennai serial killer Auto Shankar on April 27, 1995.
Following Chatterjee’s execution, Mullick became famous. He was invited to even inaugurate Durga Puja pandals in 2004.
Born to a family of executioners – both his father and grandfather were hangmen – Mullick pursued one of his early loves, traditional folk theatre or jatra, in some of which he played himself.
In the last three years, he often became a part of travelling theatre troupes and would receive a hero’s welcome wherever he went in rural Bengal.
Once he claimed his father Shiblal prepared the noose for several freedom fighters, including Surya Sen, architect of the 1930 Chittagong armoury raid.
Keen to keep the art alive in the family, Mullick trained his grandson Prabhat, who assisted him in Chatterjee’s execution.
At the age of 16, Nata, originally named Alopriyo, started learning the ropes by assisting his father, earning Rs. 16 per execution.
In 2004, he sold each strand of Dhananjay’s noose – supposed to bring good luck – for Rs. 2,000.