Lust for death, not life

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Motivated worker Pawan in the backyard of his house. Photo: Vijay Pandey
Motivated worker Pawan in the backyard of his house. Photo: Vijay Pandey

Inside a damp, dimly lit room with plaster peeling from the walls, sits Pawan ‘Jallad’ (the latter means hangman in Urdu). The one-room flat is located in Lohia Nagar, a predominantly Dalit settlement on the outskirts of Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. Pawan has spent a week hooked to television sets, switching channels in a frenetic search for news on the hanging of Yakub Memon. The restlessness in his eyes and the twitch of his wrinkled skin reveal his state of mind.

“I really want to hang Yakub Memon,” he says. “No one has contacted me yet — I am waiting for a fax from Nagpur Central Jail summoning me. I hope it’s me this time and not anyone else.”

Tehelka tracked Pawan down on 27 July 2015, when the Supreme Court was hearing a petition seeking a stay on the death sentence awarded to Memon. Impatient and obsessive, the hangman hopes media persons can give him an answer to the question: “Will he be hanged?”

The gentleman so anxious to flaunt his identity as a hangman is, at 54 years, yet to make his debut in executing a convict on death row. The occupation comes to him as a legacy which he is proud of carrying forward — his father Mammu and his grandfather Kallu Ram were engaged in the same profession. Pawan receives a monthly salary of Rs 3,000 from the Government of India, on which he and his wife are bringing up seven daughters and two sons.

The first time Pawan found himself featured in the news was on 12 September 2014, when he was assigned to tie a noose around the neck of Surendar Koli of Noida in Uttar Pradesh who was convicted for serial murders.

However, luck — if it can be so called — was not on his side. At the eleventh hour, Kohli’s life death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. This was nevertheless the time Pawan ‘Jallad’ got his 15 minutes of fame, as national and international media chased him for insights into a hangman’s life, a profession that is slowly becoming redundant due to the reduced numbers of death sentence being pronounced in India. According to Pawan, he is one of just a couple of executioners left in the country.

“I was all set to do my job,” he recalls. “Preparations were over, the rope was ready, I had carried out a trial. The only thing left to be done was to tie a rope around Kohli’s neck and pull the lever but he was fortunate and I was not. Orders came at the last moment that he should not be hanged. I had to return home disappointed.”

Pawan is no stranger to the raging debate around death sentences. After all, the outcome will affect his chosen profession. Unlike liberal Indians who believe this form of punishment denies a criminal a chance to reform, Pawan believes that it is because of this trend that there is an increase in the crime rate in India. “I believe that unless people are punished harshly and criminals are hanged until they die, serious crimes cannot be stopped in India,” he says.

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