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Suspect arrested in ’99 murders of Australian missionary & 2 sons

BOMBAY, India (BP)–Police in India arrested a man wanted for killing Australian Baptist missionary Graham Staines and his two sons, according to a British Broadcasting Corp. report cited by the Crosswalk.com Internet site.

Dara Singh, the suspect, had evaded police in Orissa state for more than a year, but a tip resulted in his arrest in a remote village at dawn Feb. 1, the BBC said.

Police had offered an $18,000 reward for Singh, believed to be the leader of a mob of radical Hindus that set fire to Staines’ car as he and his sons slept inside near a village in Orissa Jan. 23, 1999. Singh also is suspected in the murders of a Muslim merchant and a Catholic priest, news reports said.

The arrest comes two days after the release of Gladys Staines’ book, “Burnt Alive: The Story of the Staines and the God They Loved.” Gladys has continued to work with lepers in Orissa and has publicly forgiven Singh because “forgiveness opens up the path of healing,” she told a Bombay audience.

New restrictions have been placed on religious freedom in Orissa, however, Crosswalk.com reported. A state order that requires police to investigate conversions is a “blatant violation” of the religious freedom guaranteed in India’s constitution, church leader Herold Mullick said. “It is strange that the exercise of fundamental rights would depend on a police report.”

The order requires anyone wishing to change faiths to report to a magistrate, who orders a police investigation. Leaders say the order affects only Christians and is intended to intimidate Hindus from converting to Christianity, Crosswalk.com reported.

Christians make up about 2 percent of India’s population, which is predominantly Hindu. Evangelists have had some success among the country’s lower caste Hindus, but Hindu leaders say Christians bribe the lower caste to convert them. Crosswalk.com noted that Christians deny the charge, but attacks against them have increased since a nationalist Hindu political party came to power two years ago.

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