On death row, prisoners turn over a new leaf

Datta was 20 when he was arrested for the rape and murder of a minor girl. Following a trial, he was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death.

Published: 31st January 2019 08:21 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st January 2019 08:21 AM   |  A+A-

Suicide, rope, hanging, hang

Image used for representational purpose only

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Datta was 20 when he was arrested for the rape and murder of a minor girl. Following a trial, he was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death. He has been serving time awaiting his execution ever since. He is now 32. 

For most people, serving time in jails awaiting death is a scary proposition. However, Datta is using this time on death row to fulfil his childhood ambition of attending school. Also the youngest prisoner in the barrack, he spends most of his time studying and working. He goes to school every day in the morning at 8 and returns to his barrack by the evening. He is proud of the fact that he has learnt so much despite being an inmate in a prison. According to a report released by the National Law University, Delhi, Datta has learnt to read and write Hindi and is satisfied that he can now write his own name. He is currently enrolled in Class 5.  

Like Datta, Harkishan also was convicted for rape and murder and sent to the gallows. He is currently lodged in a jail awaiting execution. When he was 31, Harkishan attempted suicide in his cell. The report says that he was very disturbed at the thought of his imminent but unclear death after the President rejected his mercy plea. He had slashed his genitals with a tile claiming that he preferred death over execution for a crime he had not committed.

However, in the 12 years that he has been on death row, Harkishan has had a renewed sense of life. He told the authors of the report in an interview that he wanted to work hard now till his execution so his family remembers him for good deeds. He works in the jail’s carpentry department and library. A graduate dropout, he has taken to reading in a big way and says his only wealth today is the knowledge he has garnered working in the jail library.

Lawyers say that convicts on death row generally either accept their fate or work with renewed strength. “In the case of the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy, who confessed to killing and raping 36 women a day before his execution, most death row convicts do the same. There are some others like Datta and Harkishan who accept their fate and look at life in a different perspective,” a senior lawyer, requesting anonymity, said. She said that the death penalty is given taking into account reform ability of the convict.

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