Monday 9 September 2013

The last man on the gallows

In an earlier post, more than ay year ago, the post had carried an article on Freedom Park and the few remnants of the old jail.
Many readers and visitors wanted to know more about the gallows, which is still preserved as a relic n the park. They also wanted to know when was last hanging.
Well, though Bangalore had one of the biggest jails and though it was classified as a central prison, it never had a hangman and all convicts sentenced to death were sent to Belgaum to be hanged.. Therefore, Belgaum had a hangman, while Bangalore and other jails did not.
Yes, a few high profile convicts were kept in the prison on Seshadri Road but when a sessions court pronounced the order of death, the convicts were immediately shifted to Belgaum, irrespective of the result of their appeal or the reference to the High Court.
Coming back to the history of the gallows, they were preserved as they have a 142-year-old history. Official records or records with the Department  of  Prisons point out that eleven persons were sent to the gallows between 1943 and 1968. They included among others five satyagrahis of Esoor village in Shimoga district.
Unfortunately, we do not have detailed information on hanging prior to Independence as the records are not available. However, there must have been several hangings and almost all of them were Indians.  
Information in the public domain suggests that the satyagrahis, who killed police officers at Esoor, were hanged on March 8, 9 and 10, 1943 respectively. They had claimed to have fought for a “responsible government,” a term used to describe the freedom movement in the princely State of Mysore, while the police and the prosecution said they had rebelled and indulged in anti-national activities, besides committing murder.
The last convict to mount the gallows in Bangalore was Srikantha, son of Venkatappa. He was hanged on August 21, 1968 on a charge of murder.
Earlier, three persons were hanged in 1958, and one each on December 10, 1962 (Narayanappa, son of Nagappa) and September 17, 1965 (Bora, son of Badanemane). Another convict to be hanged on December 18, 1958 was Krishna Reddy, who had murdered all the members of the family of Belur Srinivas Iyengar, a lawyer, who had a house in Gandhinagar.
Other accomplices to face the hangman’s noose along with Krishna Reddy were Muniswamy and Govinda Reddy. They had murdered on June 6, 1956 in cold blood Belur Srinivasa Iyengar, his wife, two sons, mother-in-law and a servant.
The bungalow of Belur Srinivasa Iyengar was situated at the spot where the building of the Syndicate Bank is built today. Krishna Reddy and others were angry that Mr. Iyengar had won a case against them and they had sworn to take revenge.
The gallows were once situated behind a tiled building, which was demolished. The gallows was surrounded by a wall and this was to prevent other jail inmates from watching the act of hanging.
Incidentally, the Bangalore jail never had a hangman on its rolls. One of the officers of the Prison Department played the part of a hangman. Even today, the new jail at Parappana Agrahara does not have gallows or the post of a hangman.
The last hanging in the State was at the Belgaum jail in 1983. Today, if you want to see the real gallows where convicts are hanged, you have to travel to Hindalga hail in Belgaum. The Hindalga jail also has a separate cell for housing convicts on the death row.

However, if you would like to know what the gallows looked like and how it was operated, head for the Freedom Park where the old gallows are still there, a ghastly relic of a past.  

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