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Fact Check : Verifying claims about BJP MP Pratap Sarangi being involved in Graham Stains murder in 1999

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Congress Mouth-piece National Herald falsely claimed that newly elected Union Minister Pratap Sarangi was involved in the murder of Christain Missionary Graham Staines and his sons in 1999. The main accused of the case Dara Singh was a supporter of Bajrang Dal but there was no "documentary evidence to prove that he was a member or office-bearer.

Pratap Sarangi, the newly elected MP from Odisha has caught the attention of many people especially social media users for his way of simplicity. Pictures of him coming from a bamboo hut, traveling in a bicycle, etc. have been highly acclaimed. He has also been elected as a union minister.

BJP leader Shazia Ilmi tweeted "He lives in a small two room mud house, owns a bicycle and nothing else. Salute to this social worker of Odissa who defeated a billionaire and is now a Minister in the Council of Ministers. He is Mr Pratap Sarangi,MP from Balasore! ???? Modi sure picks his Ministers well!".

This attention he received led to a lot of news agencies digging up his past and publishing articles about it. One of the most controversial and popular incidents associated by many to Pratap Sarangi is the murder of Christian missionary from Australia Graham Stains and his two children. According to reports, Graham Staines and his two sons Philip and Timothy were burned to death while sleeping in their station wagon.

A verified Twitter handle Prashant Kanojia who was once associated with Indian Express and The Wire tweeted to point out the Pratap Sarangi was the incharge of Bajrang Dal Orissa when a Christian Missionary Graham Stains was burned to death along with his two children by Bajrang Dal activists in 1999. 

The wire published a detailed story to highlight the criminal cases against Pratap Sarangi. They wrote:

In January 1999, Saranagi was chief of the Bajrang Dal in Odisha when Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons, aged 11 and 7, were burnt alive by a group of men with links to the Bajrang Dal.

Congress mouth-piece National Herald published an article to claim that Pratap Sarangi was involved in the murder of Graham Staines. The headline of the article reads "Minister Pratap Sarangi has blood on his hands; an austere life is not a life without crime". The summary of the article reads:

Pratap Sarangi, who was involved in the murder of Graham Staines has been made a Union minister. It is perhaps only a matter of time before Pragya Thakur is made one too

Christian Missionary Case - 1999

Graham Staines and his two sons were sleeping in a station wagon in the village of Manoharpur in Keonjhar when the vehicle was set on fire. They couldn't escape the fire and was burned to death.

The main accused of this triple murder case is Dara Singh who is now reported to be serving a life sentence. Several claims were made that Singh was a member of Bajrang Dal which was then headed by Sarangi. It is to be noted that Dara Singh was never confirmed to be a member of Bajrang Dal. News articles from The Hindu which reports the conclusion of the commission informs us that the Wadhwa commission which was appointed then to look into the case did not find any evidence suggesting the involvement of Dara Singh with Bajrang Dal. Deccan Chronicle has reported the same. Several other reports also confirm that the commission ruled out the direct involvement of Dara Singh with Bajrang Dal.

Pic: A Paragraph from The Hindu's Report

However, several media houses and social media users have blatantly claimed the involvement of Bajrang Dal without any proof. This is an extract from a Time of India article.

Furthermore, several people had brought back the allegations of Sarangi being involved in the Staines murder because he was the leader of Bajrang Dal then. This claim has been refuted by Sarangi himself. In an interview to Rediff, when asked about Staines murder case and Dara Singh, he replied:

There is no person by the name of Dara Singh in Orissa who is a member of the Bajrang Dal. We condemned Staines's killing. Nobody can approve of the incident. You see, the problem is that every investigating agency is beginning its investigation in a wrong manner. The investigation must start from scratch and take into account circumstantial evidence. But what is happening in this case is that the investigators have already decided that Dara Singh has committed this crime and he is a Bajrang Dal member.

Moreover, The Hindu, Front line Hindu and Deccan Chronicles have published articles on the commission reports which rules out the involvement of Bajrang Dal in the murder case. There have been a lot of allegations of Bajrang Dal’s involvement in the murder ever since the incident happened, however, it cannot be considered true without legal proof and confirmation. Keeping this in mind, it is controversial that National Herald posted an article with a misleading headline and false information. The subheading of the article reads “Pratap Sarangi, who was involved in the murder of Graham Staines has been made a Union minister” which is absolutely false considering no proof has adhered to the claim. Moreover, they have also written, “Dara Singh of Bajrang Dal has been convicted in the case”, which is not true because the commission had reported that Singh was not a legitimate member of Bajrang Dal but was just a supporter. Even Police records suggest that he was just a sympathiser" of the Bajrang Dal.

Writer and activist Ram Puniyani writing about the Bajrang Dal vis-à-vis the Staines’ murder in his book The Politics of Anti-Christian Violence says:

“… there is no evidence that Bajrang Dal is involved in the present gruesome murder of Staines and his two little children. Moreover, in his statement, Pratap Chandra Sarangi, who is the state co-ordinator of Bajrang Dal in Orissa was categorical that re-conversion to Hinduism was not one of the objects of Bajrang Dal. In his affidavit he had stated that Bajrang Dal was not involved in gruesome murder and that Dara Singh was never a member of the Bajrang Dal.”

Ram Puniyani's view is also important here since he is a well-known critique of Bajrang Dal.

Further details on the incident and sources claiming that Sarangi is not involved in the murder can be read in the articles from Telegraph India, Sarangi’s interview to Rediff, Opindia, etc.

Conclusion: Pratap Sarangi is certainly not involved in the murder of Graham Steins nor is it proven that Dara Singh was a member of Bajrang Dal. Many social media users and media houses, especially the National Herald are seen to be spreading fake and unofficial news with no proof.

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