Hindu Fundamentalist Organization to depict Dara as "Hero" in movie

“He is an ideological person, not a criminal. He is a protector of Hindu community”
( [email protected] ) Nov 19, 2003 10:52 AM EST

Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India., Nov. 19 - Barely days after Sunil Agnihotri unveiled his bilingual film, The Murder of a Missionary, on the tragic heroism of Graham Staines, a Mumbai-based organisation announced a Hindi film lionising Dara Singh, convicted of burning to death the Australian missionary with his two sons.

The Sanskrutika Chetana Manch, believed to be a Sangh affiliate, will call its counter-flick Dara: The Hero.

“The script of the movie is yet to be completed. We are looking for a director as well as the actors for the proposed movie. But we expect to start shooting by April next year,” said Subash Chouhan, state convener of the Bajrang Dal and one of the key persons behind the movie.

“Though the Sanskrutika Chetana Manch would provide the funds, we would provide logistical support during the shooting of the movie in the state,” Chouhan said from Sambalpur town, adding that a tribal from the region where Staines worked could play Dara’s role.

Agnihotri is waiting for a final clearance of the script from Staines’ widow Gladys and hopes cameras to start rolling from February. Actor Irfan Khan has been shortlisted to depict Dara, who is on the death row, in Missionary.

But the Bajrang Dal convener warned he would not allow Agnihotri to shoot in Orissa for his proposed film. “For us Staines was nothing less than a villain. We would not allow him to portray the Australian missionary as a hero,” Chouhan said.

The Bajrang Dal leader said the movie would portray the “good work done by Dara in preventing conversion and cow slaughter” in the tribal areas. “By killing Staines and his sons, Dara surely committed a crime. But his activities pertaining to conversion was good. That’s what we want to portray,” he added.

Chouhan countered accusations that the Sangh parivar seems to have suddenly discovered Dara’s virtues. “Surely we did not come out in his support after he was caught. But we never opposed him. If people can worship Nathuram Godse after Mahatma Gandhi’s death, then why not Dara Singh?” he asked.

Agnihotri’s Missionary also drew a sharp reaction from Vishwa Hindu Parishad Orissa unit chief Bipin Bihari Ratho. “Nobody should make a film on Staines as it would amount to contempt of court. Besides, such a film would cause friction between Hindus and Christians,” he said.

Dara’s appeal this month against the trial court order, sentencing him to death for the murders, has been admitted in Orissa High Court.

Last Tuesday, BJP legislator Bidhubhusan Praharaj had openly come out in support of Dara, demanding that the convict be allowed to go to his native village in Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh to perform the last rites of his father who passed away recently.

“He is an ideological person, not a criminal. He is a protector of Hindu community,” Praharaj had said much to the discomfiture of his party colleagues in the House. The legislator said denial of Dara’s request to attend his father’s last rites would amount to violation of human rights.