Mental shift

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Shoot at sight in Orissa – I am deeply sad says Gladys Staines

Posted by jytmkh on August 27, 2008

Glydes Staines

Glydes Staines

Sydney, Aug 27

(IANS) She lost her husband and sons to a mob that torched them while they were sleeping in their vehicle in India’s Orissa state. Almost a decade later, Gladys Staines, the widow of Australian missionary Graham Staines, says she is “deeply saddened” as sectarian violence again grips the state that will forever be close to her heart.

“Hopefully, people will learn to respect each other and live in communal harmony across the religious divide. I pray that the government is able to bring peace to the region,” said Gladys, who now lives with her daughter in North Queensland.

“I am deeply saddened by the news of the recent happenings in Orissa, a place which will forever be close to my heart,” Gladys told IANS in an exclusive interview.

At least 11 people have been killed in the eastern Indian state this week after mobs thirsting for revenge for the murder of a leader of the rightwing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) went on the rampage.

These included a woman killed when an orphanage was burnt and a paralytic patient torched alive. Most of the deaths were in the volatile Kandhamal region.

It was an eerie recall to Jan 22, 1999, when Graham Staines and their two sons, 10-year-old Philip and six-year-old Timothy, were burnt alive by Hindu radical mobs in their vehicle in Keonjhar district.

Four years since Gladys returned to her native land of sunshine and beaches, she is only now beginning to feel settled as her heart remains embedded thousands of miles away in India, where she spent over 20 years of her life.

She is in regular touch with the staff at the Mayurbhanj Leprosy Home and the Graham Staines Memorial Hospital in Orissa.

“I was in Orissa during May this year. It was like a homecoming. I spent 10 days, wish it was longer, enveloped in the warmth of the people who still affectionately address me as `didi’.”

Gladys, who has always believed that “forgiving helps in the healing process”, contemplated for a moment when asked when asked about what must we do to stop this present cycles of killings across the world: “We need to learn to love and respect one another even if some are different to what we are.

“Certainly, god has helped me to forgive. He has created each one of us and he doesn’t want us to be killing each other. Unless we give up the bitterness and prejudices, the cycle of violence will never end.”

In December last year, Gladys had expressed her concerns about increasing sectarian tension in Orissa, where Hindus and Christians have often clashed, in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The prime minister had assured her in a written reply: “The government will take all necessary steps to safeguard the fundamental rights and liberties of all sections of our society and protect their religious freedom. We will not tolerate any efforts aimed at disturbing the communal harmony or secular fabric of our country.”

Gladys also feels that the media can flare or calm a situation.

“Responsible reporting of unadulterated truth can go a long way in calming sectarian tensions, but at the same time sensationalising facts can flare up a situation.”

Will Gladys return to live in India or only make regular visits is something she hasn’t pondered upon yet? For now, she has regained her Australian nursing registration and plans to devote herself to caring for the sick in a hospital.

Shoot at sight orders issued to end violence in Orissa

Bhubaneswar, Aug 27 (IANS) Shoot at sight orders were issued Wednesday in Orissa’s Kandhamal district as mobs defied curfew, blocked roads and attacked churches and Christian homes to avenge the killing of a Hindu leader.

“We have given orders to shoot at sight anybody defying curfew and indulging in violence,” Revenue Divisional Commissioner Satyabrata Sahu told IANS as the violence raged mostly in isolated rural hamlets.

But despite curfew in most parts of the district, mobs set up road blocks and also set fire to churches and vehicles, officials and witnesses said.

The latest outbreak of violence was reported from rural areas where the police have failed to reach, Sahu said.

The death toll in the communal violence meanwhile rose to 11 after officials recovered three more bodies of people attacked this week. But local sources said the number of dead could be more.

One body was discovered from Phiringia and another from Raikia in the district.

“One of them had died Monday and the other Tuesday. Both died after mobs attacked them,” said Kandhamal district collector Kishan Kumar.

A third person was rescued in a critical condition and died Tuesday night in hospital, Kumar told IANS.

Stray incidents of violence were reported Tuesday night and the situation was tense in many areas in the district, about 340 km from here, he said.

Police and paramilitary forces marched through the troubled towns of the district Wednesday. Orders under section 144, which prohibits the assembly of four or more people, have been clamped across the area.

Minister of State for Home Sri Prakash Jaiswal and other Congress leaders are scheduled to visit the region Wednesday.

Orissa has been on the boil since the killing of Swami Laxmananand Saraswati, a member of the central advisory committee of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and four others Saturday evening by suspected Maoist guerrillas at his Jalespata ashram in the district.

On Monday, the VHP called for a statewide shutdown. Since then, 11 people have been killed in the state, 10 in Kandhamal alone.

On Tuesday, Hindus and Christians clashed in the district’s Barakhama village leaving four people, including a woman, dead.

Besides the three bodies just discovered, two people were killed in Tiangia village on Monday – though police could reach only Tuesday as the villagers had blocked the road with massive wooden logs.

Another person, a paralytic patient, was lynched and burnt in Rupa village Sunday night.

Violence also reared its ugly head in Bargarh district, about 300 km from here, when a woman was burnt alive after mobs torched an orphanage in Khuntpali village Monday — when several churches were burnt and rail and road traffic impacted.

Saraswati was leading a campaign against cow slaughter and religious conversion in the communally sensitive district – which with a population of around 600,000 including 150,000 Christians has witnessed numerous clashes between Hindus and Christians in the past.

Radical Hindu groups in the state blamed the Church for the crime and alleged that Christians killed Saraswati because he was opposing religious conversion. Christian organisations deny these allegations.

Saraswati’s supporters have been holding protests since Saturday night, blocking trains and vehicles. Orissa is not new to communal violence between Hindus and Christians.

On Jan 22, 1999, Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons, 10-year-old Philip and six-year-old Timothy, were burnt alive by Hindu radical mobs in their vehicle in Keonjhar district.


Related News

Deploy armed forces in Orissa, demand Christian leaders

Two more killed in Orissa, cops unable to reach village

Woman burnt to death in Orissa violence

Churches attacked as Orissa protests intensify

Protests spread in Orissa after VHP leader’s killing

Orissa shuts down schools, colleges as protests spread

Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader, four others shot dead


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