Lady burnt alive like Staines - Missionary hostel employee killed in Orissa

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By SUBRAT DAS AND PRAMOD KUMAR PATNAIK in Sambalpur
  • Published 25.08.08
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Bhubaneswar/Sambalpur, Aug. 25: A Christian lady employee was charred to death as suspected Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists today set on fire a missionary school hostel in western Orissa, a state scalded by the burning alive of Australian priest Graham Staines and his two sons nine years ago.

The attack in Bargarh district, around 360km from Bhubaneswar, is believed to be in retaliation against the murder of a VHP leader and four members of the outfit on Saturday night. The Sangh parivar had called a 12-hour bandh today against the killings.

The VHP fury spread late tonight as the outfit ransacked a speciality hospital run by missionaries in Diptipur in the same district.

Orissa director-general of police Gopal Nanda said a group of “bandh supporters” attacked the hostel at Khuntipali in Padampur around 2pm.

Padampur sub-collector Pravat Bhoi said 22-year-old Rajani Majhi was burned alive after the mob set on fire the one-storeyed building that was home to over 20 children who came from the district’s villages to study in a local school run by the Church.

A missionary who ran the hostel suffered serious burn injuries and is admitted in the Padampur hospital.

The children managed to escape and have been lodged in a girls’ hostel nearby.

The VHP activists had earlier attacked the policemen guarding the hostel. “Two of our personnel deployed at the missionary hostel were beaten up by the activists and their two-wheelers were burnt. They sustained severe head injuries,” said Amarendra Sandh, the officer in charge of Padampur police station.

Christians, who have faced a wave of attacks in the state, were shocked. “All that has happened and is happening is certainly unfortunate and sad. We are yet to get details of the incident but I would only like to say that such incidents are completely un-Christian and the religion does not approve of any kind of violence,” said Joseph Calathel, parish priest of the Bhubaneswar diocese.

The Sangh parivar, which has targeted missionaries working in Orissa’s hinterlands, has claimed that Saturday’s attack against Swami Laxmananda Saraswati was the handiwork of the Church.

The VHP leader was gunned down by a group of unidentified men while he was in the toilet at the Jalespata Kanyashram in Kandhamal district in southern Orissa. Four other inmates of the ashram were also killed in the attack.

The police suspected Maoists to be behind the strike, but the Sangh disagreed.

The most chilling attack on missionaries took place on the night of January 22, 1999, when a band of Sangh activists led by Dara Singh set on fire a station wagon in which Australian missionary Staines and his sons — Philip (9) and Timothy (7) — were sleeping in Manoharpur village of Keonjhar district.

Singh, a Bajrang Dal leader, was arrested and sentenced to death by a local court. The high court later commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. He is now lodged in Baripada jail.