Newly elected Member of Parliament Pratap Chandra Sarangi has become a social media darling as the poster boys for austerity. But did you know that he was the state coordinator for the Bajrang Dal during the time when Australian missionary Graham Stains and his two children were burnt alive by the group in Odisha in 1999?
Image courtesy: TOI
Graham Statines Murder Case
On the intervening night between January 22 and 23, 1999, Staines and his two sons, Philip (10) and Timothy (6) were sleeping in their station wagon in a wooded area of Manoharpur in the Keonjhar region when they were surrounded by members of the Bajrang Dal. The mob took no pity even on the innocent children and burnt the trio alive! While Dara Singh was the prime accused in the case, Sarangi cannot be absolved of the crime completely, considering he headed the Bajrang Dal in Odisha at the time. Dara Singh was awarded a death sentence by the trial court in 2003 which was commuted to life imprisonment by the Odisha High Court in 2005 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2011. National Minorities Commission verified Dara’s linkages to the Bajrang Dal.
Loudest cheers for Sarangi, a sign of things to come?
Sarangi won from the Balasore constituency in Odisha on a BJP ticket in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. On May 30, Sarangi, the social media hero with a murky past was sworn into the Modi 2.0 Cabinet as Minister of State in two ministries: Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries. It was reported that he received the loudest cheers as he took oath.
Sarangi’s tryst with religious extremism
He has even served as the president of the Odisha Bajrang Dal unit and was previously a senior member of the state Vishwa Hindu Parishad unit. Sarangi has seven pending criminal cases against him with severe charges including criminal intimidation, rioting, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc., and extortion, among others. In March 2002, while serving as the BD president, he was arrested by the Odisha police on charges of rioting, arson, assault and damaging government property.
Shortly after being sworn in he claimed all charges against him were false and motivated. He told NDTV, “All these (cases) are based on false allegations. The police have done this deliberately because I went against their corruption and taking bribes. I fought against it seriously. I fought against injustice for social causes and that is why I was the enemy of many corrupt officials and that is why all antisocial elements united to file cases against me. Many charges were proved false in court and rest will be dismissed too.”
In the past, while Sarangi has condemned the death of Staines’ children, he held fast to his views against conversion. Sarangi has given several interviews, in which he spoke passionately against what he called the “evil designs” of Christian missionaries who are “bent on converting the whole of India.” Upon being asked how he viewed the work done by Christian missionaries in Odisha, Sarangi said, “Barring a few exceptions, Christian missionaries, to generalise, are idiots.”
Therefore, even as Sarangi is being hailed for his simple life, with some sections calling him the ‘Modi of Odisha’, one cannot forget what lies behind him!