WHO is Dara Singh alias Rabinder Pal Singh? Even as a nationwide manhunt was launched last week to trace this shadowy emigre from Etawah in UP in connection with the killing of Australian missionary Graham Stewart Staines and his sons, Philip (10) and Timothy (6), at Manoharpur village in Orissa's Keonjhar district, Outlook has uncovered information that links the man definitively with the bjp and the carnage.
Dara Singh has been described as a supporter of the bjp in a first information report (FIR) for assaulting some Congress workers in February 1998 in the Patna police station area in Keonjhar. The case where Dara is described as a bjp supporter is numbered 19 and dated February 19, 1998 - Dara was co-accused with Chaturbhuja Mohanta, a leading Bajrang Dal activist of Keonjhar, who too is absconding.
According to situation report No. 844/IB/19-2-98 filed by ASP Prasanna Kumar Mohanti, copies of which were given to the collector, Benudhar Mishra, and the home secretary and director (intelligence), Dara Singh and Chaturbhuja Mohanta (bjp) are charged under sections 341/294/307/34 IPC for assaulting the Patna block chairman Bhidyadhar Das (Congress) at Jhalipada.
Dara, 35, has also confessed to the killing of Staines to a Manoharpur villager. A senior official in charge of investigations said Dara and an old friend, Dipu Das, with whom he stayed in Manoharpur for years, met the villager a day after the killing and confessed his involvement. The villager couldn't say where Dara and his friend went from his place.
Dara migrated to Malipossi in Keonjhar in 1981 after losing his job in a Delhi shoe factory where he assaulted a manager. Dipu Das, who worked in the same factory, took him to Manoharpur and let him stay at his place and look after his father Rama Das's grocery.
Aggressive and brash, Dara turned out to be a habitual trouble-maker and Muslim-baiter. He started by waylaying West Bengal-bound cattle trucks from Orissa, assaulting the drivers and releasing the animals. Consider this:
The police say some 10 cases are pending against Dara and his men for intimidation, assault and looting. He was arrested at least once for waylaying cattle trucks but was released on bail.
The popularity of Dara in Manoharpur and adjoining tribal areas of Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj is rooted in the substantial Kurmi population in the area. The Kurmis, known as Mahantas, were once regarded as a tribe and now taken as one of the castes. Mostly agriculturists, this tightly-knit community forbids inter-caste marriages, performs rituals with the help of Brahmin priests and discourages dowry. They are also ardent cow-worshippers.
Dara ingratiated himself to the Mahanta community by taking on the cattle truckers and driving a fear among villagers that their cattle would not be safe if this trade had a free run. He cycled around, portraying himself as a saviour of the villagers' livestock, as an investigating officer put it.
Why did Dara suddenly turn his ire on Christians? Investigations reveal there was some tension between Mahantas and converted Mahanta Christians. Since 1980, some 28 families had converted - this angered some of the more conservative families. Staines, according to long-time friend Subhankar Ghosh - a botany teacher - visited Manoharpur once or twice a year, but some locals felt he was responsible for the conversions. The police is also checking rumours that the immediate provocation for the killing was the conversion of some families last month.
Investigations point to a well-oiled, premeditated attack. A few days before the jungle camp organised by the local chapel which Staines attended, the Mahanta menfolk had returned to the village to celebrate Makar Sakranti. Dara, who had been hiding in Mayurbhanj, also returned to Manoharpur earlier this month and was spotted moving around with the tribals during the fair. But nobody expected such a tragic denouement.