Speaker urged to expunge remarks against slain Australian missionary
Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) has called on the Lok Sabha Speaker to expunge remarks of a member against Graham Stuart Staines who was burned to death along with his two sons, in Odisha, eastern India, 21 years ago.
The Christian community in India is deeply distressed at the remarks Satya Pal Singh made on September 21, during a debate on Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020, EFI general secretary Reverend Vijayesh Lal said in a press release.
Singh had alleged that the NGO of Staines was converting people to Christianity and local tribals were upset with him.
“There was uproar over Graham Staines. What happened to him and his two children was wrong. But CBI, Odisha Crime Branch and the Justice D P Wadhwa Commission probe concluded that tribals were being converted there. It was the biggest reason that people turned against him,” said Singh, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party from the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, the native place of Dara Singh who had led the mob that torched Staines.
Staines was an EFI and worked among leprosy patients in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district.
Reverend Lal said Singh’s remarks injured “the memory of a person who gave his best years in service of this nation particularly its marginalized. They also go against the record as documented in the parliamentary debates following the gruesome incident.
Staines and his son Timothy and Philip were killed when the mob torched the vehicle in which the three slept after a tribal festival in Manoharpur, an interior village in Mayurbhanj on January 22, 1999.
The then Indian Prime Minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee said he was ashamed and had announced a judicial inquiry headed by Supreme Court Justice D P Wadhwa.
The then Indian President K.R. Narayanan’s “voice rattled us as he described the murder as “a monumental aberration of time-tested tolerance and harmony. The killings belong to the world’s inventory of black deed,” the EFI general secretary recalled.
He also said Christians in India find Singh’s comments “outrageous and an abuse of parliamentary democracy. These remarks besmirch a deceased man’s outstanding life of social service, 21 years after his death with hearsay and innuendo,” Reverend Lal added.
Founded in 1951, EFI is the national alliance that includes 54 Protestant denominations for a total of 65,000 communities spread across India, as well as 200 charitable missionary agencies and organizations.
Revered Lal said they plan to appeal to Speaker Om Birla to review Singh’s comments and expunge them, unless the member is able “to provide evidence for his derogatory comments.”
In 2003, Dara Singh,a Bajrang Dal activist, was convicted of leading the murderers and was sentenced to life in prison.
Singh’s remarks were condemned by Supriya Sule, a Member of Parliament belonging to the National Congress Party. “As a retired police officer from Maharashtra, what example did he (Singh) give? That one NGO did not do good work. If he was the Police Commissioner what action did he take?”
She said it was wrong to paint all NGOs with the same brush if one them indulged in malpractices. According to her thousands of NGOs are doing “very good work. He has defended a case in Odisha about a family that was burnt alive. Whatever they did, no law anywhere in the world allows you to burn people and their children,” Sule Asserted.
“What’s even more shameful that somebody who was in police, just because he’s in an organization, says CBI said it (that tribals were upset with Staines). Does that mean CBI says it’s okay to burn somebody’s children because of actions of parents?” the parliamentarian asked.
While discussing the FCRA amendment bill Singh also said, “We know what happened in northeast, how things changed there in last 50 years and a particular religion rose. There’s government and intelligence report on how insurgency increased there with money under FCRA.”