In a move expected to add to anxiety within India's churches, supporters of a convicted killer of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons plan to massively distribute anti-Christian booklets in the tense eastern state of Orissa, BosNewsLife learned Wednesday, July 20.
Dara Sena, an anti-Christian group floated by fans of prime convict Dara Singh, wants to hand out as many as 30,000 copies of booklets describing Dara Singh as a "god and depicting Christianity in [a] poor light," reported the influential Hindustan Times newspaper.
The organization was formed to project Singh as a protector of Hinduism. Dara Sena Chief Mukesh Jain, was to distribute the booklets in the Karanjia area while on his way to visit 11 persons acquitted in the murder case by the Orissa High Court on May 19.
Located in the northern part of Orissa, Karanjia is a rural area dominated by tribes, who advocacy groups say have been open to the Christian Gospel, despite pressure from Hindu militants.
Jain had met Singh at Baripada central jail in Orissa's Mayurbhanj district, shortly before the Orissa High Court commuted Singh's death sentence, awarded by a lower court on September 22, 2003, to life imprisonment. It acquitted 11 others whom the lower court had awarded life imprisonment, while one militant retained a life sentence.
Staines and his two sons were burnt alive by a mob led by Singh while they were sleeping in a van at Manoharpur village in Orissa's Keonjhar district in the night of January 21-22, 1999, investigators established.
The Superintendent of Police of Mayurbhanj district has made clear he will not accept the distribution of anti-Christian publications, amid fears of new religious tensions. "So far, no booklet has been distributed. But if they start distributing them, the police will arrest them," the official was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.
The daily suggested that the booklet distribution was aimed at creating a base for Dara Sena's political ambitions. "Officials in the state intelligence don't rule out the possibility of at least one of the acquitted persons taking the plunge into politics with the active support of the Dara Sena," the newspaper commented.
Even Singh himself told reporters earlier that he was contemplating joining politics. Singh added that a decision on participating in elections was to be taken and that he would follow the recommendations of Dara Sena's executive committee.
Analysts say however that Singh, being convicted of a crime, will not be allowed by the Election Commission of India to participate in a ballot. Christians have been apprehensive about members of their minority community since the May 19 verdict of the Orissa High Court, a BosNewsLife investigation shows.
"The acquittal of the criminals involved in the gruesome murder of Australian Missionary Graham Staines and his two children by the Orissa High Court has sent shock waves across the country," said Sajan K. George, National Convenor of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told the BosNewsLife New Delhi Bureau.
"There has been a rise in the number of attacks on Christians in various parts of the country, especially after the Orissa court verdict, clearly indicating that the communal elements seem more emboldened now," he said in a statement.
One of the key suspects in the murders of Pastors K. Daniel and K. Isaac Raju, last month in Hyderabad, a region in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, has told media he was "inspired by the example of Dara Singh." The two pastors were found dead in early June.
Singh reportedly plans to appeal to the Supreme Court of India for a full acquittal. Christians, advocacy groups, and secular political parties in India have demanded that the Central Bureau of Investigation, which investigated the murder case, will challenge him and the Orissa High Court verdict in India's Supreme Court.