Pawan Jallad has been a hangman for over 50 years now. Traditionally, in India, a son follows his father’s footsteps, taking up the same line of work. Pawan’s father was a hangman (called a ‘jallad‘ in Hindi), and so was his grandfather. Despite the grisly task assigned to him as an executioner, Pawan loves his job. He has never imagined being anything else and has wanted to be a hangman since he was a child.
Pawan has been in the ‘family business’ since 1951. Proudly speaking about his family’s legacy in this profession, he mentions how his grandfather hanged Indira Gandhi’s assassin in 1987, an execution that 22-year-old Pawan witnessed. When asked if he is scared by the work he does, Pawan shrugs and shakes his head. To him, all he is doing is performing a duty. Whether someone is innocent or not is not for him, but the courts to decide.
India is one of the few countries where the death penalty still exists. In fact, in 2007, India voted against a UN resolution that opposed the death penalty. In the year 2015, more than 1600 executions were carried out across the world. In India, it is estimated that since 2001, over 270 people have been sentenced to death, but not executed.
Outside the metros and beyond the urban jungle live the sons and daughters of India’s heartland. The 101 Heartland series tells their stories. It celebrates both unique communities and individual tales of hope, struggle, and reform. From the village of bouncers just outside Delhi to the fascinating story of Ram Kumar Tyagi, once a wanted man but now a coach for aspiring female wrestlers, 101 Heartland tells stories for the heart, from the heartland.