Author against death penalty for missionary killer

world | Jan 23, 2007 | By Vishal Arora

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

"We are hopeful of a real change and transformation in the life of Dara Singh, who is a victim of the Hindutva, an ideology of hate," Vishal Mangalwadi, author of "Burnt Alive", told Sepro News. The book was 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 on January 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 (8) were killed by a mob led by Singh on the night of January 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, the youth wing 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 judgment is awaited.

Staines lived and worked in Mayurbhanj, Orissa for 34 years serving those affected with leprosy. He provided medicine to the patients and ran vocational programs.

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.

Vishal Arora is an independent journalist and can be contacted at



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