…It must be easy
For him. Anything is easy for a hangman,
– Carl Sandburg, The Hangman at Home.
Actually, nothing went wrong. The whole affair went through precisely as planned. The die had been cast, the hangman was in time, and the rope strong. The knot was perfectly tied, and the length of the fall accurately calculated. The timetable was strictly followed. Even the black hood appeared to have been tailored to size, and the release-lever well-oiled. The trap-door worked smoothly. All in all, a text-book hanging. The body was left suspended for the recommended length of time. The prison doctor was ready with his clinical tools to declare the condemned man dead. The grave-digger was at hand too, and so was the priest to administer the last rites.
Nothing went wrong in the hanged man’s native place as well. When the hangman was still testing his rope, forces personnel were already in position. Razor-wire barricades had been laid out, guns loaded and checked, and tear gas canisters kept handy. Wireless sets were alive and crackling. Early-risers, on way to the local baker, or out for a morning walk, were already being turned back. The cable network was put to sleep. The situation was under total control. The noose around the condemned man’s native place was no less tight than the noose that would soon tighten around his neck. Not that curfews last for ever. How long it takes to smother a population had been worked out as well.
The deed was done, and in less time that it would take you to spell India and democracy, a life was extinguished, and the ‘collective conscience’ of a nation satisfied.
The condemned man’s family heard of the hanging after everybody else. Of course, a letter with more or less precise words, though perhaps a few spelling mistakes, had been dispatched to them though normal post which travels at normal speed. And it would eventually reach them, and did, just a couple of days after the hanging. This too went right. The letter was delivered to them in person – postal authorities were not to be deterred by mere curfew.
The timing was right too. It was just a year yet till preparations for the next national elections would start, and what better time to rob the opposition parties of a scoring point. It would be well absorbed by the time the year was over. Perfect timing so far as the condemned man’s native place too was concerned. A year on, the natives would be back in good humour and ready to vote for bijli, pani, sadak etc. So that took care of any concerns our local guys out there might have.
Then again in numerous other ways too it went perfectly right. In a year’s time the Supreme Court of the land was about to come up with a ruling that in long pending trials the death sentence should be commuted to life imprisonment. Now that would have been pretty inconvenient if the thing had not gone through at the right time and so nothing was wrong if the queue was jumped in case of this one condemned man. After all the ‘collective conscience’ of a nation was at stake and by sheer coincidence the elections were also looming. Yes in this particular case of hanging, everything went right
Then why is it that the home minister of the biggest democracy in the world has suddenly started having some afterthoughts, and what is more surprising, started voicing them as well. Why is such an eminent personality suddenly behaving like Carl Sandburg imagined that a hangman would back in his home after having done his day’s work? ‘Something went wrong somewhere,’ this magnanimous minister says about some file that he had handed over four days prior to when some fellow from some place was to be hanged somewhere for something he had done, something that even the courts were not somewhat sure about? Perhaps it is just one more manifestation of the greatness of the biggest democracy in the world and its illustrious leaders? Surely such nostalgia cannot be just for the sake of a few votes. Such a humble admission and when everything went right too! Mystifying indeed are the ways of great men, not at all easy for ordinary mortals to comprehend.
For indeed, the hanging was perfect, and Muhammed Afzal Guru did not survive it…but neither did Indian ‘democracy.’