Man accused of killing missionary to seek public office in India

Wednesday, June 21, 2000

NEW DELHI, India, 21 June 2000 (Newsroom) -- Hindu militants in Orissa have announced that the man accused of masterminding the brutal killings last year of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons will be the chief minister candidate of their newly formed political party in the eastern state.

Ravinder Pal Singh, also known as Dara Singh, is in jail awaiting trial on murder charges. Singh also is linked to the murders last year of Catholic priest Arul Doss and Muslim trader Sheik Rahman.

Dara Singh Parijan Suraksha Samiti (DSPSS, the Council for Aiding the Family of Dara Singh, the Protector of Religion) declared earlier this week that it intended to become a political body projecting Dara Singh as a potential future chief minister of Orissa. DSPSS is one of many organizations of ultra-right Hindus formed to defend Dara Singh, who has emerged as the new hero of Hindu fundamentalists.

By law any Indian citizen who is 25 and who has not been convicted by any court of law may contest an election, even if they are in jail awaiting trial. A person who is convicted of a crime and appeals to a higher court within three months of the conviction also may seek election to office.

Singh, who was the object of a nationwide manhunt for more than a year, was arrested in the dense forests near Gohira, a village close to the Orissa-Bihar border, on January 31.

Staines, 57, and sons Philip, 10, and Timothy, 6, burned to death outside a home for lepers in a remote village 600 miles south of New Delhi. Staines, who had worked with lepers in Orissa for nearly 30 years, and his sons were sleeping in their station wagon outside the hospital in Baripada near the village of Manoharpur on January 23, 1999, when Hindu militants attacked. Police have arrested more than two dozen people, all of them allied with militant Hindu nationalist groups.

Another organization, Dharmarakhyak Sri Dara Singh Bachao Samiti (DSDSBS, Save Dara Singh, the Protector of the Religion Committee), on June 17 announced that Singh will contest the next assembly elections in Orissa from a constituency in either Mayurbhanj or Keonjhar district. This organization was formed in Delhi to create support for Singh.

Meanwhile, the group’s general secretary, Mukesh Jain, who also is general secretary of the Orissa organization, was arrested in Keonjhar district, Orissa, on June 19 along with two associates. Jain was arrested for allegedly inciting communal tension by distributing objectionable leaflets and posters, and delivering speeches.

Jain and his committee were campaigning in the tribal areas of the country for Singh. The state police are reportedly taking measures to prevent violence in these areas after the arrest. Jain reportedly said before his arrest that by detaining him the police would "incite more violence in the areas because we have people's sympathy."

"We are planning to ban the outfit if it takes further steps to create communal tension in the district," an unidentified top police official was quoted by local media.

India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reiterated that it does not have anything to do with these organizations. "We still believe that if Singh is found guilty for the Staines murder, he should be punished," said J.P. Mathur, senior vice president of the BJP.

Earlier, the party leadership had scolded one of its senior lawmakers in the Upper House of Parliament for issuing statements to support Dara Singh. Dilip Singh Judev, who is known for his reconversion drive in the tribal areas, has said that he would extend legal and moral support to Singh. Following a warning from the party leadership he withdrew his statement.

Jain claims that another organization, Dara Sena (Dara's Army), has the support of more than 7,000 people. Jain said the DSPSS would launch a Dara Jyoti (Dara's Lamp) to enlighten people about Hinduism and the threat posed to the religion by Christian missionaries. He criticized political parties and the government for showing concern for what he called "minor" incidents involving minorities.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee promised a Catholic delegation that met with him last week about escalating attacks against the Christian community that there will be an inquiry into the source of inflammatory literature that is being distributed in all over the country.

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Used with permission.