The Rediff Special/ Staines Murder
Graham Staines' wife, daughter try to
rebuild their lives around his work
M I Khan in Baripada and Manoharpur (Orissa)
Manoharpur, a small village in the tribal belt of Orissa, is reverberating with drumbeats as villagers perform dhangri (a tribal dance form) to celebrate Makra festival. The festivities, however, are muted and the village has also decided to call of its annual jungle camp. One year back on January 22, Christian missionary Graham Staines was burnt alive with his teenaged sons when he had come to attend one such camp.
The presence of a large posse of state police is the only indication that the village has lived under a constant shadow of fear. The fear of Dara Singh - the man who allegedly led the attack on the Staines - coming back for more.
About 200 km from Manoharpur, in Baripada, where Garaham Staines spent over 30 years serving leprosy patients, his wife Gladys and daughter Esther are trying to reconstruct their lives once again around his work.
A police outpost has been created in the premises of the Baptist church in Baripada, where Gladys Staines lives. These days she has been joined by Esther whose school in Ooty has closed down for winter vacations.
Both mother and daughter have claimed publicly that they have forgiven Dara Singh. However, such magnanimity, police believe, is not going to change Dara Singh's heart. Security in both Baripada and Manoharpur has been tightened following reports that he is planning to attack the Christian population of the two villages.
Gladys Staines admitted that the last one year has been very difficult of her, as she settled down for an informal interview with this correspondent in the backyard of the Baptist church. She was soon joined by her daughter.
"I do miss him," said Gladys Staines with just a hint of smile. ''Had he been alive, he would have turned 59 on January 18.''
The day would have also marked completion of 35 years of Graham Staines' stay in India.
"I feel very sad about my children, I often remember their childish pranks,'' she said when asked if it had been difficult to cope with her sons' death.
Though Gladys Staines had asked this correspondent to not address any questions to her daughter, Esther was gradually drawn into the conversation.
Esther said the killing of her father and brothers had changed her life completely. One of her brothers was studying with her in Ooty and she said it had been especially difficult for her to get used to his absence from her life.
She is, however, determined to stay on in India and study medicine. "I love India...a degree in medicine would help me to carry on with my father's work,'' she said.
Galdys Staines too has no plans to leave Baripada. She is currently working on a proposal to build a 40-bed hospital in her husband's memory.
Life hasn't been easy for the residents of Manoharpur either. Ralia Soren, the main witness to the killing of Staines, has lived in constant fear for a year now. "Dara Singh and his supporters can attack us any day," he said.
Soren and the church pastor in Manoharpur, Chaitanya Murmur, are not being allowed to leave the village and police personnel have been posted inside the small church where the two sleep in the night.
Soren, vividly remembers the night when Dara Singh attacked Staines and his sons. He recalled
that the attackers were shouting ''Jai Bajrang Bali ki jai and Dara Singh ki jai."
Ralia wondered how the state administration had failed to nab Dara Singh when there have been reports that the fugitive often visits neighbouring villages with his flock.
But the fear has only steeled the resolve of Soren and his fellow villagers to fight Dara
Singh if he comes calling. ''We have prepared ourselves to face this criminal. We will kill him if he comes to our village,'' he said
According to sources in the Special Task Force set up to arrest Dara Singh, 20 police pickets have been set up in Keonjhar district alone. Several such pickets have been set up in Mayurbhanj district too.
When contacted the Special Task Force chief, Amarnath Patnaik, said Dara Singh would be arrested soon.
Locals, however, say that the STF has been exuding the same confidence for over a year now.
They point out that it is going to be very difficult to nab Dara Singh because he enjoys the support of the Mahanta tribal community in Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj areas.
And as long as he is free, fear would remain a constant companion of Christian tribals in Monoharpur and Baripada.
An interview with Gladys Staines
In Manoharpur, Graham Staines is just a distant memory
CBI files chargesheet in Staines murder case
Journey into Orissa's land of strife
Varsha Bhosle on the Staines murder and its aftermath
CBI files chargesheet in Staines murder case
The complete coverage on attacks against Christians
The Rediff Specials
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