Indian American author pleads for Staines' murderer
Jan 27, 2007 - 8:14:25 AM

New Delhi, Jan 27 - Dara Singh, who led a mob that burnt alive Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in Orissa in January 1999, should not get the death sentence, says an Indian American author on the eighth anniversary of the crime.

'We are hopeful of a real change and transformation in the life of Dara Singh, who is a victim of Hindutva, an ideology of hate,' Vishal Mangalwadi, author of 'Burnt Alive', told IANS in an interview. The book is a tribute to the life and work of the slain missionary.

'The killing of the Staines was truly 'a crime that belongs to the world's inventory of black deeds' as the then Indian president - had said, but Singh did not commit the crime out of personal malice. It was a result of the ideological and religious hatred spread by the numerous Hindutva organisations,' said the Hollywood-based author, who was here for the Graham Staines Memorial Writers' Conference held Jan 19.

'Law alone does not matter, as there is a need for realisation among those who propagate the Hindutva ideology that the spirituality of hate is against the universal values of love and tolerance,' added Mangalwadi, who has authored numerous books, including 'Missionary Conspiracy' in response to Arun Shourie's 'Missionaries in India'.

The 58-year-old author, who was born and raised in India, went on to say that if Singh realised that violence in the name of religion is an 'untenable evil', he could also become an 'apostle of peace' by propagating love instead of hate with the same zeal.

Staines and his sons Phillip, 11, and Timothy, eight, were killed by a mob led by Singh on the night of Jan 22, 1999, while they were asleep in their vehicle in Manoharpur, a small tribal village in Orissa's Keonjhar district. Singh alleged that Staines was converting local tribals and Hindus to Christianity.

In September 2003, the district and sessions court of Khurda sentenced Singh to death. The court also awarded life imprisonment to 12 others. Singh was believed to be closely associated with the Bajrang Dal, an affiliate of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

However, in May 2005, the Orissa High Court modified Singh's death penalty to life imprisonment. In October 2005, the Central Bureau of Investigation appealed against the high court ruling in the Supreme Court. The apex court's judgement is awaited.

Staines lived and worked in Mayurbhanj for 34 years serving those afflicted with leprosy. He provided medicine to the patients and ran vocational programmes.

After the murder, the widow of the slain missionary, Gladys Staines, stunned the world by saying that she had forgiven the killers of her husband and children. She is keeping alive the mission of her husband by helping leprosy patients at the leprosy home in Orissa.

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