Graham Staines (1941 -1999) Australian missionary
A native Australian, Staines was the director of the Leprosy Mission in Baripada, Orissa, where he had served since 1965. It was just after midnight on the morning of January 23 when the windows were broken out of Staines’ jeep; gasoline was poured on and ignited; the jeep was then enveloped in flames.
Graham Stuart Staines (1941-January 1999) was an Australian missionary who was burnt to death while he was sleeping with his two sons Timothy (aged 9) and Philip (aged 7) in his station wagon at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district in Orissa, India in January 1999. In 2003, the Hindu activist Dara Singh was convicted of leading the gang.
Graham Staines had been working in Orissa among the tribal poor and especially with leprosy patients since 1965.
He has been accused by Hindu ideologues of the Sangh Parivar of being a zealous evangelical. While there is a perception that he converted many tribals to Christianity, the rise in Christian population in the district is very slight.
Graham Staines was born in 1941 at Palmwoods, Queensland, Australia. He visited India in 1965 for the first time and joined Evangelical Missionary Society of Mayurbhanj (EMSM), working in this remote backward tribal area, with a long history of missionary activity.
Staines took over the management of the Mission at Baripada in 1983. He also played role in establishment of Mayurbhanj Leprosy Home as a registered society in 1982. He met Gladys June in 1981 while working for leprosy patients, and they married in 1983, and have been working together since then. They had three children, daughter Esther and two sons Philip and Timothy.
On the night of January 22, 1999, Graham Staines had attended a jungle camp, an annual gathering of Christians of the area to strengthen fellowship and for teaching. In the night he was sleeping in his Mahindra Jeep when it was set afire by a mob. Graham and his two sons were burnt alive.
Initial investigations, conducted by the Mayurbhanj police, pointed towards the involvement of Dara Singh, the adopted name of Ravindra Pal Singh, a Hindu activist who had been active in the region since 1989. On January 29, 1999, the Government of India set up a judicial commission of inquiry under Justice D.P. Wadhwa of the Supreme Court to investigate the murder. The commission was to submit a report in two months but this was changed to 5 months in March 1999. In that same month, the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation from the state police.
In June 1999, the commission submitted its report holding Dara Singh guilty of the crime. The very next day, the CBI submitted chargesheets against the people involved. In January 2000, Dara Singh was arrested from a forest in Mayurbhanj district. In September 2000, charges were brought against the accused. Trial began in March 2001 in a district and sessions court designated a CBI court. In February 2002, an accused, Mahendra Hembram said in court that he was the sole culprit and that the others were innocent. In April 2003, accused Dayanidhi Patra said in court that he was present when Dara Singh set fire to the vehicle.
The trial ended in August 2003 and judgement was passed in September 2003 convicting Dara Singh and Hembram. In spite of Gladys Staines’ appeal for clemency, Dara Singh was sentenced to death and 12 others were given life imprisonment.
However, the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in May 2005 by the Orissa High Court, who also acquitted the other appellants.
On Mar 19, 2007, the Supreme Court issued notice to the CBI on a petition filed by Mahendra Hembrom challenging the Orissa High Court verdict, saying that his confessional statement before the trial court, in which he had said that he killed Graham Staines, should be considered in toto.
Two arrested in connection with murder of missionary Graham Staines
20 May 2013
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