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Monday, January 25, 1999
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49 held for murder of missionary

BHUBANESWAR, Jan 24 (PTI) — Fortynine persons were arrested today in connection with the killing of an Australian missionary and his two sons in Keonjhar district.

Orissa Chief Minister J.B. Patnaik said here that while a hunt was on for the culprits, the police procured a photo of Dara Singh, the main suspect and leader of the gang behind the killing, which would be flashed on television and the print medium to facilitate his arrest.

The Chief Minister, who returned from Manoharpur early this morning after taking stock of the situation in the wake of yesterday’s killing, said police and intelligence agencies had been alerted throughout the state to ensure protection to the minorities, particularly the Christians.

A police post had been sanctioned at Manoharpur where the missionary, Mr Graham Stewart Steins, and his two minor sons were burnt to death after Bajrang Dal activists allegedly set afire the station wagon in which they were sleeping.

Mr Patnaik told PTI here that he had already sent reports on the situation and the steps taken by the state government to the Prime Minister as well as Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

Mr Patnaik said the Revenue Divisional Commissioner (Northern division), who had been asked to conduct an inquiry into the incident, would submit his report within two weeks.

"Many things were expected to come out after the inquiry as to the timing of the incident and why Mr Steins, who was a symbol of Christian virtue and served people with a great missionary zeal, was targeted by the attackers", he said.

The Chief Minister who earlier met representatives of various Christian denominations who came in a delegation, said whosoever was involved in this dastardly act was an enemy of the nation and its secular fabric.

"The law of the land would not spare such persons and everyone involved in this unfortunate incident would be booked", he said, while assuring that the minorities living in the state would be provided full protection.

When asked if he suspected any particular organisation behind the incident, Mr Patnaik told reporters at Manoharpur village last night: "Why are you asking me? The people were telling you that after committing the crime the culprits were shouting Bajrang Bali ki jai — you have heard that".

Mr Patnaik said before being set ablaze the station wagon in which Steins and his two sons, Phillip and Timothy, were asleep was heavily stoned. The attackers formed a ring around the vehicle and did not allow anyone to come out of their houses in the village.

The three bodies were brought to Cuttack for a forensic examination at SCB Medical College Hospital. The charred remains would be put into coffins and taken to Baripada.

Mr Steins had made Baripada the hub of his activities, including running of a leprosy hospital for 34 years.

In another development, the police announced a reward of Rs 25,000 for providing information about the main suspect, Dara, a top police official said.

Director-General of Police Dr B.B. Panda said Dara Singh, hailing from Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh, was a Bajrang Dal leader who had been "motivating" activists of the organisation in the Manoharpur area for more than 10 years.

DIG (Western Range), Binoy Behera, was present at Manoharpur where four platoons of the Orissa Special Armed Police had been stationed, he said.

Meanwhile, the bodies of the missionary and his two sons, will be laid to rest at a graveyard here tomorrow, family sources said today.

The bodies, burnt beyond recognition, had been shifted to SCB Medical College Hospital at Cuttack for a forensic examination.

"We expect the bodies to be brought here late this evening and the burial will take place tomorrow’’, they said.

The Baptiste Union Church campus in the busy Kacheri road here, where the Steins live, has remained a crowded place since yesterday morning.

Church leaders, family friends, government officers, Rotarians, students, housewives and people at large have been visiting the campus to console Glades, wife of the missionary, and their 13-year-old daughter Esther, in their hour of grief.back

 


President calls it barbaric
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Jan 24 — The President, Mr K.R. Narayanan and the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, today condemned the killing of an Australian missionary and his two sons in Orissa even as the Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani reviewed the situation in the state at a meeting of top officials of his ministry here.

According to reports, the Prime Minister talked to the Orissa Chief Minister, Mr J.B. Patnaik, and asked him to take stern action against the culprits.

The President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, described the incident as one "belonging to the world’s inventory of black deeds". In a strongly-worded statement he said "that someone who had spent years caring for patients of leprosy, instead of being thanked and appreciated as a role model should be done to death in this manner is a monumental aberration from the traditions of tolerance and humanity for which India is known".

Condemning the barbaric and criminal act, the President said he joined the nation in conveying his deepest sympathies to the killed missionary’s widow and his co-workers and friends.

All major parties, including the BJP also strongly condemned the incident, pointing out that such incidents were setting a "dangerous trend" against Christians and missionaries. They urged the Centre to take immediate steps to arrest the culprits and prosecute leaders of organisations responsible for the propaganda against the Christians.

According to sources the Home Minister, who also condemned the incident, held a long meeting with top officials of his ministry to review the situation prevailing in the tribal areas of Orissa. He sought a complete report from the state government.

The sources said the Home Minister instructed the state administration to take immediate steps to nab the culprits and take stern action.

The CPM expressing shock and outrage at the incident said it was a direct outcome of the "systematic hate campaign" against the Christians in the tribal areas of the state.

Alleging that one of the outfits of the RSS combine, the Bajrang Dal, was behind the inhuman crime, the Politburo said all RSS outfits working under different names in the area should be proscribed.

"The Vajpayee Government cannot pretend that what is happening in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Orissa and other places are some sporadic incidents", he said.

"The brutal killing of two innocent children must at least make them realise the enormous consequences of the hate campaign against the Christian community," it said.

The party also demanded the arrest of the culprits and the prosecution of leaders of the organisations responsible for the inflammatory propaganda against the Christians.

It also sought full security for all Christian missionaries and members of the community who were being subjected to threats and intimidation.

The BJP president, Mr Kushabhau Thakre, in a statement issued here said that he was shocked at the incident. Condemning it, he called upon the state government to book the culprits without delay. He also said that full security must be provided to the minorities in the state.

The BJP would also be sending a central team to the state to assess the situation and report to the party president.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal demanded immediate arrest and trial of those responsible under the National Security Act. Alleging that the incident was part of a "continuing programme of BJP-allied partners to disturb peace in the country," RJD spokesman M.A. Fatmi said, adding the Vajpayee Government must take immediate action in this regard.

Meanwhile, Australia conveyed its deep shock and concern to the Indian Government. Australian High Commissioner Rob Laurie spoke to Union Home Secretary R.P. Singh to convey his country’s concern. He also deputed a senior officer to visit Keonjhar and assess the situation.back

 

Bajrang Dal not involved: VHP

NEW DELHI, Jan 24 (PTI) — The Vishwa Hindu Parishad today said neither the VHP nor the Bajrang Dal had any role in the "ghastly inhuman act" of burning to death an Australian missionary and his two sons in Orissa and demanded a probe into the incident.

In a statement here, VHP Working President Ashok Singhal said he was against foreign missionaries who "fraudulently convert simple tribal people in the name of charitable work" but added that the "VHP does not believe in violent retaliation but challenges them through constructive work of serious projects in education, health and dharna."

Condemning the killing of the Australian missionary and his two minor sons, he demanded that "the State and Central Governments inquire into the incident and punish the guilty immediately to check the recurrence of such incidents".

Meanwhile, in a statement from Ahmedabad, international general secretary of the VHP, Dr Parvin Togadia told PTI that neither the VHP nor the Bajrang Dal was involved in the crime.

"Some political parties are trying to malign the VHP and Bajrang Dal with an intention to defame Hindu society," Mr Togadia said.

He claimed that none of the five attackers arrested yesterday belong to the VHP or the Bajrang Dal.

Later, addressing a press conference, he welcomed the probe instituted by the Orissa Government into the murder of the missionary and his children.

Regarding Dara Singh, reportedly involved in the incident, the VHP leader said "we have thoroughly inquired through our channels and there is nobody by the name of Dara Singh who is even remotely connected with the Bajrang Dal in either Keonjhar in Orissa or anywhere in Uttar Pradesh".

Mr Togadia said of late there was simmering resentment among the tribals against the organised conversion being resorted to by the missionaries.

"The tribals have misgivings about the conversions and think that it might erode their rich culture. May be, they are showing their resentment against the conversion activities of the missionaries through violent means", he added.

Offering his condolences to the widow of the Australian missionary, he said "violence is against the Hindu ethos". back

 

BJP has lost right to rule: TDP

HYDERABAD, Jan 24 (PTI) — For the first time since its decision to support the Vajpayee Government, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) today said the BJP-led coalition had "lost the moral right" to govern the country in the light of growing attacks on minorities.

The strongest-ever criticism against the BJP by its post-poll ally came in the wake of the murder of Australian missionary Graham Stewart Steins and his two sons in Orissa yesterday.

"The attacks on Christians in Gujarat, the BJP leadership’s surrender to the Shiv Sena on the Pakistan cricket tour issue and the torching of the Australian missionary in Orissa are reflective of the BJP losing the moral right to govern," the TDP spokesman Dr U. Venkateshwarulu said in a statement here.

He said it was "regrettable" that the Vajpayee Government was confined to "saving its own governments and its alliance partner, Shiv Sena".

Taking strong objection to the manner in which Union Home Minister L.K. Advani flew down to Mumbai to pacify Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray to call off the agitation against the Indo-Pak cricket series, the TDP spokesman said: "By prostrating before Mr Thackeray, the Home Minister had lowered the country’s honour".

"We condemn the attitude of the Vajpayee Government in this regard", he said.

Venkateshwarulu also assailed the Congress Government in Orissa for its inept handling of the situation in the wake of the gangrape of Anjana Mishra and the killing of the Australian missionary.

He alleged that Congress President Sonia Gandhi had been maintaining silence over increasing attacks against women, Dalits and the minorities in Orissa.back

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