ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Staines Verdict

Why the deep prejudice against Christians availing of the freedom granted by Article 25 of the Constitution?

On 21 January, the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the life sentence of Dara Singh, the main accused in the burning to death of the Australian Christian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons on the night of 22 January 1999 in Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district of Orissa. The SC commented on the intention of the crime thus: “…the intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity”. However, days later, on 25 January, the Court expunged its own comments on conversions.

Staines had been working with leprosy patients in Keonjhar for nearly 34 years. While the brutal killing evoked reactions of shock and horror, the Hindutva forces had a pat explanation: the murders were a result of the tribals’ anger against the “forcible” conversions made by Staines. What was not explained was why this anger against Staines had not manifested itself for three decades until Hindutva outfits began their virulent anti-Christian propaganda in the region and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power at the centre.

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