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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 August, 2004, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
Children die in copycat hangings
Dhananjoy Chatterjee, pictured before his conviction
Dhananjoy Chatterjee's hanging received extensive media attention
At least three children have died while acting out the recent hanging of an Indian convict, reports say.

Other children are reported to have hurt themselves in similar incidents.

Dhananjoy Chatterjee, a security guard, was convicted for the 1990 rape and murder of a school girl who lived in the building where he worked.

His execution in the eastern city of Calcutta on 14 August whipped up a media frenzy with some news outlets covering it in great detail.

Mock trial

A 14-year-old boy in the western city of Bombay (Mumbai) died after he hanged himself by a rope from a ceiling fan at home in an apparent re-enactment of the execution.

"The boy's father told us Prem was a very bright but curious kid and kept asking questions about how Dhananjoy would be hanged," a senior police official told Reuters news agency.

Children have a natural curiosity about anything out of the ordinary
Anjali Chhabria, psychiatrist

"Dhananjoy was the top news on all TV channels for so many days and Prem would watch very closely," he said.

The Hindu newspaper reported that another 14-year-old boy died in the eastern state of West Bengal over the weekend, also while re-enacting the hanging.

Samiran Tiwari hanged himself with a cycle tube while his parents were away from home, the newspaper said.

In another incident last week, a 12-year-old girl died in West Bengal while trying to show her younger brother how Dhananjoy had been executed.

Alipore jail, Calcutta
People flocked outside Alipore jail, Calcutta, the site of the execution

"I shouldn't have left her home alone especially when she's been talking about the Dhananjoy hanging all the time," the girl's father told The Telegraph newspaper after the incident.

Some other children who tried to re-enact the hanging have been luckier.

Anjan Saha of West Bengal was playing out the execution with his friends in a primary school when the rope gave away, The Hindu reported.

Sheikh Aslam Khan, 12, almost choked to death when his friends "hanged" him from a tree after a mock trial in the same state.

'Easy imitation'

Khan's friends, according to reports, were playing the roles of the executioner, doctor and prison warder.

Psychiatrists say such copycat incidents are often provoked by media overkill, to which children are susceptible.

"Children have a natural curiosity about anything out of the ordinary," psychiatrist Anjali Chhabria told Reuters.

"Also, several newspapers and TV channels had given detailed sketches of execution by hanging, making it easier for the kids to imitate."

Dhananjoy Chatterjee's was the country's first execution since 1995.

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14 Aug 04  |  South Asia
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04 Aug 04  |  South Asia
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24 Jun 04  |  South Asia
India and the death penalty
18 Dec 02  |  South Asia

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