Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - Dara Singh, responsible for the murder of the Australian Protestant missionary Graham Stewart Staines, is a candidate for the upcoming provincial elections in Orissa, in the district of Keonjhar.
The supporters of Dara, whose real name is Rabindra Kumar Pal, have presented him as an independent candidate for the legislative assembly of Ghasipura. Dara was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of leading the group that in the village of Manoharpur, on the night of June 22, 1999, set fire to the station wagon of Graham Staines, killing the Australian lay missionary and his two sons, Philip, 7, and Timothy, 9.
A fervent supporter of Hindutva (nationalist and fundamentalist Hindu culture) and a fierce opponent of conversion to Christianity, Dara was involved in various trials, including those in the killing of Catholic priest Arul Doss and Muslim merchant Sheikh Rehman, which also took place in 1999, during the Hindu revolts in the district of Mayurbhanj (Orissa).
Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, has greeted the news with "profound sadness." Interviewed by AsiaNews, the archbishop of Mumbai confesses his concern that "this does not speak well of the future of our country." Gracias says, "our beloved country, the largest democracy in the world . . . needs leaders who will work to safeguard the Constitution. The founding fathers enshrined in our Constitution, articles to preserve the unity . . . multiethnicity and multilinguistic plurality of India, and we need leaders who are clean, who will work for communal harmony and work for the social uplifting of the people." For the cardinal, Dara's candidacy "will not help India," let alone the district of Keonjhar, "a tribal dominated area, where the nomination will further the divide and augment communal distrust." The Global Council of Indian Christians has criticized Dara Singh's candidacy, and has asked the electoral commission to declare it invalid.