Almost exactly one year after Australian Baptist missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were burned to death in a remote village in the Indian state of Orissa, the leader of the mob that killed them was arrested. Dara Singh, an activist with the radical Hindu group Bajrang Dal, was apprehended Tuesday. He has been charged with the murders along with 18 other suspects since June 21, but has been in hiding with a $23,250 bounty on his head for the past year. District police lured Singh Tuesday night by setting up a false arms deal in the isolated, dense forest where Singh was hiding. About 50 police officers surrounded him and his associate, Jagannath Munda, and arrested them. According to The Times of India, Singh was armed but did not resist arrest.
Graham Stuart Staines and sons, Philip, 10, and Timothy, 8, were burned to death January 23, 1999, as they slept in a jeep. The vehicle was reportedly parked outside a small makeshift church in the village of Manoharpur, about 600 miles southeast of New Delhi. His wife, Gladys, and daughter, Esther, were not with them at the time. Though the murder of the Staineses is by far the most prominent of Singh's crimes, he and his associates are also suspected of involvement in the August killing of a Muslim trader and of Christian missionary Arul Doss.
Gladys Staines told the Reuters news service she was "happy that he will not be able to kill others."
Other Christians in India also told Reuters they were grateful for the arrest, but said the Orissa government issued an order last week requiring a police inquiry to all religious conversions. No one, they say, is allowed to change religion until the police make sure the conversion was not "coerced."
"They have arrested Dara Singh, but they have also issued an order against religious freedom," Herod Mullick, general secretary of the Christian organization Bangiya Christiya Pariseba told Reuters. Meanwhile, the International Council of Evangelical Churches, based in New Castle, Delaware, is awarding the inaugural Staines International Award for Religious Harmony to Roman Catholic Archbishop Alan Basil de Lastic, and journalist John Dayal. Lastic is president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India and chair of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights (UCFHR). Dayal, also a Catholic and a leader of UCFHR is executive editor of an English-lanugage newspaper in New Delhi.
Ted Olsen is Online and Opinion Editor for ChristianityToday.com and Christianity Today. Anto Akkara of Ecumenical News International assisted in the reporting of the Staines International Award for Religious Harmony.
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See our earlier coverage of the Staines murder:
Murdered missionary's widow will continue his work with India's lepers | Impression of India 'not at all' changed by murder of husband and children (Dec. 1, 1999)
Hindus Protest Papal Visit to India | Fundamentalists accuse Christians of 'forced conversions' (Nov. 16, 1999)
Hindu Radical Fingered in Staines Killing (Sept. 6, 1999)
The Fiery Rise of Hindu Fundamentalism | After a missionary and his two sons are martyred, Christians in India press for greater religious freedom. (Mar. 1, 1999)
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