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When Prime Minister Modi and his cabinet assembled on May 30 to take their oath of office, nobody expected that a relatively unknown minister sworn in at the end of the ceremony would steal the show.
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Applause broke from the audience when Pratap Sarangi walked onto the stage. Earlier that day, a picture of him leaving the austere hut where he lives went viral, drawing praise for his modest lifestyle.
Sarangi - Spot - Limelight - Issue - India
But Sarangi’s spot in the limelight also resurfaced a controversial issue in India: religious conversions.
Sarangi was the leader of Bajrang Dal, an extremist Hindu militant organization that was accused of the 1999 murders of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in Odisha.
Investigation - Group - Dozen - People - Life
An official investigation didn’t cast blame on any particular group, and although over a dozen people were convicted and given life sentences, all but one were eventually released. Dara Singh, who presumably led the mob who attacked the Staines, was sentenced to death but had his sentence commuted to life in prison.
Sarangi has denied involvement in the crime and distanced himself from Singh, whom he says was not part of Bajrang Dal. But he has not shied from accusing Christians of converting Indians by force or fraudulent methods, most recently characterizing conversions as asking for sex in exchange for a favor.
Attacks - Christians - India - North - Year
Since 1999, attacks against Christians in India have sharply increased, particularly in the north. Last year, Open Doors, which ranks global levels of persecution, included India for the first time ever in the top 10 nations where Christians are persecuted.
As was the case with the murder of the Staines, much of the...
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