| Dara Singh
Bhubaneswar, Sept. 23: I met murder on the way. It had a mask like Dara Singh.
The CBI judge who sentenced Dara Singh to death for the murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his sons said the 45-year-old had “added a new chapter to the rhyme book of children”.
The 153-page order described the death-row convict variously as “murder with a mask”, “ambassador of death” and “prima donna of the offence”.
Judge Mahandra Nath Patnaik said the massacre of Staines, Philip (11) and Timothy (8) as they slept in their station wagon on the intervening night of January 22-23, 1999, showed that humanity was yet to be fully civilised.
“Like knight errant of crime, he formed a militant group of local tribals to physically liquidate Staines on the belief that without him, the spread of Christianity will be buried in the area. Rest of the convicts, who were gullible tribals, blindly followed him,” he said.
Pointing out religious bigotry as the cause of the murders, Patnaik said: “A criminal has no religion. What sin had the two boys committed'”
The judge said that if the provisions of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act were strictly followed in the state, no one could contend that gullible and innocent tribals were being converted.
“Secularism is now well-settled to be part of the basic structure of the Constitution. India is known for its religious tolerance. The Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967, prohibits conversion by force, inducement or any fraudulent means. Even any such abetment of conversion from one religion to another religion has been made an offence,” the judge pointed out.
The CBI, during the trial, had submitted that the missionary activities of Staines led to conversion of tribals belonging to the Ho and Santhal tribes. After converting to Christianity, they distanced themselves from non-Christian tribals and, going against tribal practice, took to eating beef and ploughing land during the Rajo festival.
Hours after Dara Singh decided against appealing the death sentence, the bandh called by Dara Sena in Mayurbhanj in protest against the order had little impact on Tuesday.
Dara Sena leader Mukesh Jain had called the bandh against the “inhuman and politically-motivated” order and said that after Dara Singh’s execution, an urn containing his ashes would be taken around the country for next five years.
The government made heavy security arrangements in about 100 churches in Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts. In Manoharpur village, where the massacre took place, a police platoon was keeping vigil.
In Keonjhar, about 20 officers with four platoons of armed forces, 50 constables and 100 home guards have been deployed in all the 20 police station limits.
In Baripada, authorities have beefed up police deployment near the Mission House residence of Gladys Staines, the widow of Graham Staines.