Australia-born missionary, children,
burnt alive in Orissa
A special correspondent
A missionary and his two sons aged eight and ten were burnt alive when miscreants set their vehicle afire at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district early on Saturday morning.
Official sources said Graham Stewart Stains, an Australia-born missionary who was secretary-cum-treasurer of the Evangelical Missionary Society of Mayurbhanj, and his sons Philip and Timothy were sleeping in a station wagon when a mob shouting slogans doused it with petrol and set it afire.
"My husband and sons tried to get out of the burning vehicle, but were stopped by the attackers," said Stains' wife, Glades, in Baripada.
The missionary was on his way to Keonjhar with his sons, who had come back on holiday from their school at Ooty. They broke the journey to spend the night in Manoharpur, sleeping in the vehicle because of the severe cold. Glades had stayed back in Baripada.
A mob of about 50 people, armed with axes and other implements, attacked the vehicle while Stains and the children were fast asleep. The bodies are to be taken to Baripada for burial.
Some villagers tried to rescue Stains and his sons, but were set upon by the attackers. None of the villagers was seriously injured.
Chief Minister Janaki Ballab Patnaik, who was in Delhi, returned to Bhubaneswar and headed for Manoharpur. The government has ordered an inquiry into the incident.
Senior police officers, including the director general of police, have rushed to the spot. Combing operations are on.
Stains was the de facto chief of the missionary society, established about 100 years ago. The incident has sent shock waves through the districts of Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar where he was well known.
For the last 14 years, Stains had been conducting an annual camp in Manoharpur for religious and social discourse, but this year he faced stiff opposition from some of the local people.
The village is situated on the border of the tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts of Orissa.
While no motive has yet been ascribed, police sources said the attack was most likely perpetrated by the Bajrang Dal, an arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which has been active in the area. Communal tension has reportedly been high for the last year in the area.
Manoharpur itself has a high population of converts to Christianity, which is reportedly resented by the tribal Hindus. Just a few months ago, Bajrang Dal activists had attacked trucks of cattle owned by Muslims.
Stains, who came into India in 1965 to do missionary work, was also associated with the Leprosy Home Mission in Baripada and had been working among lepers in Mayurbhanj district for the last 32 years.
With additional reporting from UNI
The Christian attacks row
Tell us what you think of this report