Afzal Guru’s mercy plea is still pending with the President, but the the hunt for the hangman might come to an end up in a dingy alley of Meerut’s Malyana area — home to Mammoo Singh.
Soon after the court sentenced Afzal Guru to death for helping the terrorists who attacked the Parliament, officials in Delhi began their search for a hangman.
Sources say that Tihar jail officials contacted authorities in Lucknow to ensure that Mammoo could be present in Delhi when needed. The message was reportedly passed on to Mammoo Singh, but with an instruction to keep it a secret till the final announcement was made.
While the jail authorities in Lucknow admitted that Tihar jail counterparts officials had sent a message for Mammoo, the superintendent of Meerut jail, Yadvendra Shukla, categorically denied the development. " I have received no such message from anyone", he said. As Mammoo gets his salary from Meerut jail, they would have been the first to be informed, he reasoned. Mammoo gets Rs 1500 as a monthly stipend from the state government.
Unfazed by the contradictory versions of jail officials, Mammoo is at present busy giving interviews to media persons at his residence. Like his superintendent, he, too, said he was not aware of any demand to carry out Afzal’s death sentence in Tihar jail.
Contrary to the stereotype of a hangman — dark complexion, heavy build and a menacing moustache — Mammoo is thin man, struggling to stay afloat in conditions of poverty.
While talking to the Hindustan Times, he revealed that his profession is a source of pride. “ My father Kaluram was a well known jallad and he learnt the art of hanging a man from his father Nanua”, said Mammoo Singh. “My grandfather was trained by his father Wazeerchand, who was a well known hangman during the British period.”
Mammoo Singh first saw a man being hanged in Meerut jail when he was all of 22. He remembers it as a disturbing experience. He again got a chance to accompany his father in Meerut jail in 1971 to hang a dreaded criminal, Babukhan. By that time, however, he had got over his fears.
After that, he started helping his father in Bareilly Jail, Naini Jail and Jaipur Jail. He also assisted in the hanging of Satwant and Kehar Singh, assassins of Indira Gandhi, in Tihar Jail, Delhi.
After the death of Kaluram on September 29, 1997, Mammoo Singh succeeded him as his father had recommended him for the same job to IG (jails) and the concerned minister. He is now training his youngest son Rakesh to carry on the profession. “ He is my only son and has the courage and the guts to become a hangman”, explained Mammoo.