Delhi (AsiaNews) – The sentencing to life in prison of Dara Singh – a Hindu extremist responsible for the murder of various Christian missionaries and Catholic priests – is “a strong message to the fundamentalists who want an extremist’s state in India. We are encouraged that the law will take it course and justice will prevail, even in dark times”. This was how Card. Telesphore Toppo, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, commented to AsiaNews on the life sentence handed down by Orissa High Court September 22nd.
The judges from the eastern State charged Singh with the murder of Fr. Arul Doss, priest of the Anandapur Catholic church, assassinated in Mayurbhanj, September 1st 1999. The Court recognised the “brutality” of the gesture: Dara Singh, together with 10 accomplices killed the priest by shooting him with arrows as he fled from his burning Church.
According to Card. Toppo, “Fr. Doss became for the Indian Church a figure of Jesus Christ who was pierced by the soldiers. His horrible death urges us on to renewed mission: he has not died in vain and the Indian Church has another powerful intercessor praying for the work and mission of the Church in India”.
Singh, whose real name is Rabindra Kumal Pal, had already been sentenced to death for the murder of the Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two small sons. In the sentencing he was found guilty of having lead an attack in the district of Keonjhar when, on January 23rd 1999, they burned Staines and his two sons of 7 and 9 to death as they slept in their car. The court also imprisoned 12 of his accomplices.
The State High Court commuted Singh’s sentence to life in prison on May 19th 2005 releasing 11 of the other accused. On October 19th 2005 the State Supreme Court accepted Singh’s appeal seeking a reduction of the sentence. In a further move, the man – who boasts the support of the Hindu nationalists – had asked for grace to be allowed to care for “his elderly and sick mother”.
As a member of Christ’s Church, concludes Card. Toppo, “I also pray for this Dara Singh, that as he serves his term God may initiate in him a transformation – so that the Light may illumine the darkness of his deeds”.