INDIA

VIDEO: Interview with a Hangman

A fourth-generation executioner wants to carry on his family's legacy in India

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Jun 13, 2014 at 7:58 AM ET

At a time when many nations are moving away from the use of capital punishment, some find it surprising that India—the world’s largest democracy—still uses hanging as an approved method of execution.

Pawan Kumar is a fourth-generation hangman, and he is eager to carry on his family’s strange legacy. He has quite a notable lineage: His grandfather Kallu executed Indira Gandhi’s assassins in 1989, and his father, Mammu, was the state hangman for 47 years.

Today India has over 400 inmates awaiting execution on death row. Public opinion on hangings ranges widely. Some feel that a country known for its belief in the sanctity of life should abandon this archaic practice. But in the wake of several high-profile gang rapes—including a recent incident where the victims were hung in a tree following the attack—many are calling for those convicted of violent sexual assault to be executed by hanging. Pawan Kumar may soon have a busy roster.

Chander Bhan contributed field production and reporting to this video.