Dara Singh—lean, tanned, and stubble-faced—sits in police custody with a religious book about a Hindu god and personal items such as soap, sugar, and medicine just seized from his bag.
Evading police for more than a year, Singh was arrested in February for the murder of Australian Baptist missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in India's eastern Orissa state (CT, Sept. 6, 1999, p. 26).
Staines and his wife Gladys worked for more than three decades with leprosy patients in the Mayurbhanj area, where Gladys Staines continues that ministry (CT, Jan. 10, 2000, p. 32).Singh, whose real name is Rabindra Kumar Pal, is a petty criminal and self-proclaimed fundamentalist Hindu who moved from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh to Orissa in 1996. He would loot the minority Christian community and distribute the spoils—cattle and money—to the people who shared his beliefs.
"He is confessing to all the crimes," says Orissa's deputy inspector general. According to local authorities, Singh said he did not intend to kill Staines and the boys, but wanted to frighten Christian missionaries into curbing their conversions. Christian organizations in India, although relieved at the arrest, are concerned about continuing violence.
"The arrest does not end the campaign of hate and calumny," says John Dayal of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights (UCFHR) in New Delhi. "Dara is a product of a particular political ideology that preaches communal hatred."
In Punjab state, Vijay Bhardwaj—chief publicity manager of the Hindu nationalist organization Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)—blames the recent violence on missionaries, claiming they trap innocent, poor people into converting. "Dara worked for a good cause, but he shouldn't have killed. We will expose missionaries' international conspiracy to malign the Hindu organizations like Bajrang Dal and VHP."
Some Christians believe Singh was a pawn in a conspiracy of intimidation, according to Sajan K. George of the Bangalore-based United Christian Voice, an ecumenical group of lay leaders.
Now behind bars, Dara Singh—along with 17 others charged as accomplices in the Staines murders—awaits justice in the court of law. He also faces charges for the murder of Catholic priest Arul Doss. If proven guilty, Singh may receive life imprisonment or the death penalty.
But UCFHR's Dayal is worried about the ongoing threat to Christians. "There are many elements like Dara still at large. The terror is still there. It's the mentality which breeds criminals like Dara and makes them heroes [that] needs to be checked."
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