When Rabindra Narayan Pal alias Dara Singh began operating in the Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj districts, perhaps he himself had no idea that the myth created around him would reach such proportions one day. Now the myth has overtaken the man and a small-time thug extorting money from cattle traders has become an "upholder of the Hindu religion". And the organisations mushrooming in his shadow are already talking of fielding a candidate for chief ministership.
Fortunately all this is yet to be. The aura created around Dara owes much of its shine to the inefficiency of the state police and coverage in the national and local press, which faithfully report the outpourings of Mukesh Jain, founder-president of the Dara Singh Bachao Samiti. Jain claims that the so-called Dara Sena has 7,000 members. Also that Dara will stand for the next elections; that his 'party' will put up a candidate even for chief ministership - tall words. But with the arrest of Jain, Ranjan Sahu, secretary of the Dharma Rakhyaka Sri Dara Singh Surakhya Samiti and Dara's advocate Pradeep Choudhary in Keonjhar recently, the Dara bubble seems to have burst.
Apart from a token bandh called by the Karanjia Bar Association protesting Choudhary's arrest under the National Security Act, there has been no public backlash. No political party has come forward to condemn the arrests and none of the Dara Sena members in Karanjia, Keonjhar and Thakurmunda have so much as produced a whimper of protest.
According to Mayurbhanj SP Y.B. Khurania, the three organisations affiliated to Dara Singh operating in the region are the Dharma Rakhyaka Shri Dara Singh Bachao Samiti, the Dara Singh Parijan Sahayata Samiti and the Dara Sena. While the first two organisations are Delhi-based, the latter has its headquarters at Karanjia. All three were floated after the arrest of Dara and have been attempting to cash in on the publicity given to the Staines killings. While there has been a steady trickle of conversions to Christianity among tribals in the area, Keonjhar had not witnessed any racial tension between the two communities. But with the tacit support of local political leaders, resentment against the missionaries and media attention proved fertile ground for some to project themselves as representative of majority interests. The loose federation called Dara Sena actually had a handful of members, many of them anti-socials. Sahu allegedly has four cases pending against him in the Keonjhar police station while secretary of the Keonjhar unit of the Dara Sena, Tilak Bahadur Thapa, has six.
Jain's associates include Kailash Chand who heads the outfit's Delhi office at 333, Sector 13, Rohini Bag while its legal advisor is advocate Bharat Singh Saini. The other Delhi-based pro-Dara organisation has Dhirendra Nath Pandey as president and Surendra Kumar as legal advisor. However, it is Jain who was the most visible face of these organisations. Jain visited Karanjia, Baripada and Keonjhar a number of times to organise public meetings and press briefings. He was also involved in the publishing of a 16-page booklet written by Dara which declared he had taken the shape of Hanuman or Krishna to destroy Staines.
Support for Dara is restricted largely to the Mahanta community and with his arrest, it has been dwindling. The Dara Sena has announced its political ambitions but is yet to be registered as a political party. While the rss, vhp and Bajrang Dal do not criticise Dara openly, they're vocal in decrying the activities of Dara Sena. bjp spokesman Shyamananda Mohapatra made it clear that there was no question of granting membership or a ticket to Dara "as long as there are cases registered against him". Jagneswar Babu of the BJD is more forthcoming that a team of senior BJD leaders will visit Keonjhar and Karanjia to probe the political links of Dara Sena.
Clearly the state government has decided to take prompt action and nip any further communalisation of the Dara Singh affair. What is puzzling is how the Dara pamphlets were allowed to be circulated and Choudhary and company get to air their views regularly. In fact, Dara's court appearances had become stage-managed shows with large audiences.
State home secretary T.K. Mishra dismisses the activities of the Dara associates as mere sound and fury. "As far as we're concerned Dara's like any other criminal and we attach little importance to any grandiose claims." However, the state government will take stringent action against any attempt to incite or foster communal violence in the guise of protecting rights of the majority, he added. With the arrest of the kingpins in the Dara Bachao Andolan, Dara is expected to face trial like any other criminal. Then perhaps the Dara myth will die a natural death.