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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 August, 2004, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
India carries out rare execution
Dhananjoy Chatterjee, pictured before his conviction
No family members were there for the execution
A man convicted of raping and killing a schoolgirl 14 years ago has been executed in India.

It is the country's first execution since 1995.

Dhananjoy Chatterjee, 39, was hanged at dawn at the Alipore Central Jail in Calcutta where he had spent the last 13 years in solitary confinement.

Chatterjee was convicted for the 1990 rape and murder of 16-year-old Hetal Parekh, who lived in the building where he worked as a security guard.

Demonstration

"Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged at 0430 (2330 GMT)," Inspector General of Prisons Joydeb Chakraborty told reporters.

Chatterjee's family did not collect his body for cremation.

This is a black day in our village
Prabhat Chatterjee
Friend of the convict's family

A convoy of police vehicles escorted the ambulance carrying his body to the crematorium, where a local social welfare organisation had arranged for the last rites.

The BBC's Subir Bhaumik says Chatterjee went calmly to the gallows on his birthday with a copy of Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism's most sacred texts.

Prison guards told the BBC that Chatterjee spent a sleepless night before the execution, and refused food.

In the days leading up to the execution Chatterjee listened to Hindu devotional songs in his solitary cell, they said.

Nata Mullick
Hangman Nata Mullick was the chief executioner
Demonstrators lit candles, held anti-death penalty banners and sang songs outside the prison but left at the scheduled hour of the execution.

"120 countries abolished death penalty. Why not India?" said a banner. "Abolish death penalty!" said another.

Some protesters sang folk star Pete Seeger's We Shall Overcome during their night-long vigil outside the jail.

Human rights activist Sujato Bhadra told the BBC they would begin a "door to door campaign" to abolish death penalty.

President APJ Abdul Kalam rejected a plea for clemency last week and the Supreme Court rejected another appeal on Thursday.

The execution was carried out by 83-year-old hangman Nata Mullick, assisted by his 21-year-old grandson, Prabhat.

Mr Mullick fell ill after the hanging of Chatterjee and had to be taken home on a stretcher with saline.

The executioner - who has become a celebrity and given scores of interviews to the media - could barely speak after the hanging.

Prison officials said he had been drinking heavily during the last three days.

Suicide threat

Chatterjee had asked for his kidneys and eyes to be donated after his death.

Members of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) stage a silent protest outside the prison where  Chatterjee was executed
Protesters held a vigil outside the prison
A large police team was deployed in Chatterjee's village, where his family had threatened to commit mass suicide if he was executed.

Chatterjee's lawyers had argued his conviction was based on circumstantial evidence and that DNA testing was not carried out.

Most people in West Bengal support the death penalty in this case.

But some human rights groups said a life sentence would have been a more appropriate punishment.

The death penalty is rarely carried out in India. It is usually reserved for particularly gruesome or politically sensitive cases.

The assassins of India's independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi, and former prime minister, Indira Gandhi, were among those executed in the past 50 years.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Nick Tarry
"Human rights activists protested through the night against the execution"



SEE ALSO:
Villagers mourn hanged Indian convict
14 Aug 04  |  South Asia
President rejects clemency plea
04 Aug 04  |  South Asia
Capital punishment: A family business
24 Jun 04  |  South Asia
India and the death penalty
18 Dec 02  |  South Asia
Stay of execution over India raid
20 Feb 04  |  South Asia
Death sentences over bus attack
29 Jan 04  |  South Asia


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