For Christian leader, Graham Staines' death is warning against Hindu fundamentalism
by Nirmala Carvalho
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the murder of the Australian missionary and his two sons, killed by Hindu radicals. The president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reflects on the next general election. The nationalist party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which supports radical groups, is also vying for power.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The martyrdom of Rev Graham Staines and his two sons reminds us that "it is vital to consider seriously the challenges posed by Hindu fundamentalism", especially in view of the upcoming general election, said Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), who spoke to AsiaNews on the anniversary of the death of the Australian missionary, killed at night on 22-23 January 1999.

Fifteen years ago, Hindu extremists set fire to Rev Staines and his sons Philip and Timothy (aged 9 and 7), as they slept in their station wagon in Manoharpur village (Keonjhar District, Orissa).

In 2006, his widow Gladys returned to live in the Indian state, along with her surviving daughter Esther.

In the upcoming May election, two main political parties will vie for power: the ruling, secular-oriented Congress Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalist opposition.

The BJP has openly backed extremist groups affiliated with the Sangh Parivar, groups that have carried out numerous attacks against India's ethnic and religious minorities.

For this reason, "we must be cautious," said the GCIC president, "because their electoral platform is part of a broader agenda to assert their nationalist ideology, destroy the country's social fabric and endanger its religious pluralism".

Hence, "it is urgent to uphold the secular spirit of our constitution," for example, "by eliminating anti-conversion laws that still exist in some Indian states like Orissa."