The lawyer for an independent commission in India investigating the murder of Christian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons has concluded that Hindu fundamentalists are to blame for their fiery deaths (CT, March 1, 1999, p. 47).

In a 250-page report presented to India's Home Ministry June 21, attorney Gopal Subramanium, representing the panel led by Supreme Court Justice D. P. Wadhwa, reported it "cannot but help coming to the conclusion that misplaced fundamentalism was the motive which led to the crime" of dousing with gasoline the vehicle in which the Australian missionary and his sons slept and setting it on fire.

The following day, Dara Singh, an activist with the radical Hindu group Bajrang Dal, was charged with the murders along with 18 suspects. Singh has not been apprehended.

Subramanium blames Singh for leading the mob. Subramanium says evidence shows the killings were "pre-planned" and "meticulously executed." The lawyer criticized the lackadaisical manner in which the murder investigation was initiated and the failure of the police to arrest the prime suspect. He noted, however, that there was no evidence as yet to "conclusively infer" involvement of any Hindu nationalist organizations such as the Bajrang Dal or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the killing of Staines.

Staines had worked with leprosy patients in India for 34 years. Singh believed that Staines tried to forcibly convert poor tribal people in villages of the eastern state of Orissa. But the panel concluded that all tribals who converted did so willingly.

Furthermore, the commission reiterated that freedom to teach the gospel of Christ is "a fundamental right" in India that is "zealously protected by the constitution."

Richard Howell, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, says the secular government has resisted pressure from fundamentalists who want to make India an exclusively Hindu nation.

"The issue is not just of Christians' persecution," he says. "It is much larger, which includes all minorities and the very constitution of India."

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.