Manoharpur, Orissa, India, 22
Graham, Philip and Timothy had retired for the night. It had
been a long and exhausting day. But, also an exciting one for the boys. They were thrilled
to be with their father at this, the annual jungle camp at Manoharpur.
It's been said that love can prompt a man to climb any
mountain. To reach the people of Manoharpur, you'd need that kind of love. A love that
would carry you across three ravines and some of the unfriendliest terrain.
Graham had that kind of love. For the past fourteen years,
he had been returning to the tiny village nestled in the remote hills of Keonjhar, about
250 km north of the state capital. And now, he was a familiar face to most of the
15-odd santhal families in residence.
There's something else about Manoharpur: It's
far removed from the life we, in the city have grown accustomed to. There's no
electricity, no running water or for that matter, none of the modern amenities. Which
would mean that Graham and his sons would have to spend the night in their
Now, as they were walking towards their vehicle, torches in
hand, the boys were still chatting about the day. About the wonderful time they had with
the simple people who loved both their father and them. They also wondered what mama and
Esther were doing at that moment. It was just four days ago that they all had a great time
together at dad's birthday.
Opening the door, Graham got in and pulled out the pillows
and blankets. He was keen to make the night's rest as comfortable for the boys
as possible. But, by now both of them, Philip especially, were fairly used to these
outings. Actually, he and Esther had come home on vacation from Hebron School, Ooty. And
he had looked forward to Manoharpur, for it gave him a chance to be with his father, whom
he loved so much.
Now as they settled down to rest, they huddled together for
a small family prayer. As they spoke to Jesus, knowing fully well that He was listening
and did answer prayers, they lifted up the family back home, all the inmates at the
Leprosy Home, the nation and Christians all over the world.
Graham was proud of the way his boys prayed. In particular,
Timothy, who prayed with the innocence that only a six-year old could possess. They were
good boys. And he had taught them to always thank God for everything.
Just as he himself had much to thank God for.
Midnight In Manoharpur
"A time is coming when anyone who kills you will think
he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the
Father or me."(John 16:2-3)
It's sad but true. That if you tell a man a lie too often,
he just might start believing it. And whatever he believes with conviction, is sure to
temper his actions. The seduction of Germany is testimony enough.
In India, too, simple people are falling prey to men with
evil designs. Fed with lies, they are encouraged to abandon themselves to dangerous
ideologies. Some, like the killers of the Staines, are being roused to express a hatred
that knows neither reason nor guilt. They are wholly convinced, that through their actions
they are serving the nation.
Or worse still, God.
Even In Death, Inseparable
According to Defence Minister George Fernandes, there have
been at least 60 attacks on churches in Orissa between 1986 and 1998. He also added that
this was the highest for any Indian state. Graham was aware of this.He was also aware that
some of the tension had found its way to Manoharpur. This, however, did not unduly worry
him. If was a long time ago that he had decided to follow Jesus Christ no matter what the
personal cost. Having read the Acts of the Apostles a great many times, he knew that
nothing significant was ever achieved without opposition.
Drums were beating that night as group of young
Santhals were enjoying a traditional Dangri dance. They were just about a 100
meters away from the Stains' station wagon. It was around 12:20 am, 23 January 1999.
Earlier on at 11 p.m., 22 January, another group has set out
from Jamadwar. The group had a leader Dara Singh alias Rabindra Pal Singh. With at least
nine cases against him, Singh is no stranger to the police. Originally from Etawah, Uttar
Pradesh, he migrated to Malipossi in Keonjhar in 1981. He has long since been active along
the Mayurbhanj-Keonjhar border. With substantial suppoirt from the santhals, Kulhos and
Bathurias, he has been steadily fomenting trouble in the region.
In fact, whenever communal violence took place, including
the attack on the church nearby Kesidha last January - Singh's name invariably showed up
in the police records. Also, he happened to be well familiar with Manoharpur. He had
stayed there with a friend, Dipu Das whilst working at the family's grocery. According to
Soutik Biswas, Outlook, Singh later confessed to the killing of Sraines to a Manoharpur
villager. A senior official in charge of investigations said Daia and an old friend, Dipu
Das, with whom he stayed in Manoharpur for years, met the villager a day after the
killings and confessed his involvement.
Itt has been described as a cold-blooded operation, Singh
and his mob approached Manoharpur at around 12:30 a.m. They came in running from the
fields, armed with lathis and trishulss (tridents). They had just one target, the station
wagon. And as they approached it, they began screaming.
Singh struck first, wielding an axe at the tyres, deflating
them. The others broke windows and prevented the Staines from escaping. Graham was beaten
mercilessly and his boys were not spared either. All three were pierced with trishuls.
Singh then put straw under the vehicle and torched it. In seconds, the vehicle was on
fire. Graham held his two boys close to him. Anyone knew him would say that the one name
on his lips would he - Christ Jesus.
The killers stood there and watched the three roast alive as
the fire consumed the vehicle. Someone approached with water to douse the flame but was
scared away. Dr. Subhanlar Ghosh, a close friend of Graham recounts:
"We had dinner with the Stains around 9:00 p.m. and
they went to sleep in the Willys station wagon, parked near the church, at about 9.45 p.m.
I was sleeping along with Mr. Gilbert Venz an overseas friend of the Stains, in one
of the huts, hardly 200 metres from the chapel. By midnight, we were woken up by some
strange shouts and screams, and I peeped through the side window. I couldn 't
believe what I saw. I heard shouts, scream, beatings, banging of doors. There were
about 50-60 people with burning torches in their hands.
They were shouting, 'Maro, Maro.....Zindabad' around the
station wagon. Soon they started smashing the windows of the jeep with bars and sticks.
The frenzied crowd blocked Graham from escaping with his children. They were brutally
beaten. Then suddenly I saw the jeep in flames. I knew my dear friends would be turned
into ashes. The attackers had already blocked the doors of the village huts, so that the
Stains would not get any help. A few who dared to question the mob were threatened. The
villagers said the attackers were shouting "Dara Singh Zindabad". The attackers
also burned another jeep, parked nearby and its driver Mishael Hasda was beaten and chased
away . After an hour, the furious militants fled the scene. I sent four people by
cycle under the leadership of Thakurmunda, 18km from Manoharpur.
Hasda, the driver of the station wagon and co-worker with
the Staines for over 20 years, was also an eye-witness. He says: "I was woken up by
screams of some people. They were shouting, "Maro... Maro.. ...Darasingh
Zindabad;.... and they were about 50-60, around the jeep where Saibo and children were
sleeping. They were smashed the vehicle with staves and stones, ..some carried trissuls
also. ...suddenly I saw someone putting a bundle of straw under the vehicle and setting
them on fire. ...I brought water and tried to put out the fire.. but some of
them caught me and beating hard, chased me away.
I ran to Murmu's but and informed him, who in turn rushed to
call the village chief. Soon I returned but what I saw was most tragic... fire had
devoured two vehicles......and my Saibo and little Philip and Tim.........turned
into ashes...I am sorry.. ..(Here Nimnai began to sob aloud), I couldn't do anything to
save my Saibo and the little ones ....My parents were cured lepers and
inhabitants of Rajabasa rehabilitation centre. I was born there. The Stains treated me
like their son... Philip and Tim used to play with my children... taking them on their
cycles.... the future of the mission is in God's hand... our Lord is able....
A number of villagers who fled the fury of the mob said they
saw a wide beam of bright light from above, rest on the burning vehicle.
"And I do believe," says Gladys, that my husband and children were
specially strengthened by my Lord and the angelic hosts from heaven.
A visiting friend of the Staines from Australia, Gilbert
Venz was also present at Manoharpur. He remembers: "The village had turned in
for the night, but at about 12.30 midnight, what seemed like a large group of men,
began raising a commotion in the street outside. They screamed don't come out, we
will kill you.
"I was indoors as we found that the door has been
blocked from outside. " Graham and the kids were sleeping in the Jeep outside."
As he was trapped inside, Venz didn't know the station wagon had been
set alight. But he kept hearing the terrifying roar of the mob.
Later, as he heard the shouting subside, he rushed out and
ran towards the vehicle. Only to find the burnt-out shell... and three bodies... charred
beyond recognition.... locked in an embrace. Even in death, the had been inseparable.
"We couldn't believe what we saw," said Ghosh. 'We
were numbed.....Graham was an embodiment of Christian love and compassion.. And his
children-tender, cheerful, who used to play with the lepers and their children!....Is
there not a limit for man's wickedness?
"The militant gang also set ablaze another jeep which
was empty and parked nearby.
Now, there was just one thing on the minds of both
Ghosh and Venz. How were Gladys,Graham's wife and Esther, Graham's only daughter, going to
take the loss? But you know what did they say:
"My husband and our children have sacrificed their
lives for the Nation of India. India is my home. I hope to be here and continue to serve
the needy" - Gladys Stains
"I praise God that He found my
father and my brothers worthy to die for Christ" -Esther Stains