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A date with Manoharpur taught, people who refuse to learn from history, should not dare write another one

Samikhsya Bureau

It was pre-dawn and the drive from Anandpur to Manoharpur was fraught with pot-holes, fear and shock . Midway, a big police van was coming from the opposite end. We could not resist from waving at the van to stop if it could.

It did stop, reluctantly though. The camera crew had to preen the cameras through the netted windows of the van to discover the heartrending sight. Three charred remains of human bodies, one adult and two kids, literally reduced to charcoals . It could have wrecked the nerves of even the most brutal man on earth.

Reviewing it in the view finder was unnerving and from then on the trauma accompanied us till the time we reached Manoharpur at 3. 30 am. The village was faintly visible, bathed in a tranquil that was so disturbing. Most of the villagers could be seen awake, sitting on the mud varendahs and in that silence even the heaving sighs and sobs of some did resonate. An air of unease heaviness left all of us sitting in the vehicles waiting for the day break.

Slowly the morning mist thinned, revealing the perplexing configuration around. Two police vans parked at the local school and the rows of tribal houses standing as the mute testimonies to a brutal act which had rattled millions all over the world.

Slowly villagers came out of their houses and some went to their fields while,  a few just stared at us in askance. There was nothing to ask since we had a brief account of what went there from the staff in the police van.

Asleep inside their vehicle, Graham Staines and his two little sons, that fateful night, never saw the sun rise  . They were burnt to death inside the parked station-wagon by the main accused Dara Singh and his accomplices  . A name that still haunts this non-descript village in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha.

Sun was rising in the east, spraying its rays but was not able to disinfect the air that was infirmed by a contagion of fanaticism no civilised world can stand to.

After about an hour or so, it was noticed that a white kurta-pyjama clad man arrived in an open space where we were, along with few of his associates. It was Pratap Chandra Sarangi, then an active Bajrang Dal cadre.

There, we were  the only media channels (NDTV and Zee News) and were naturally keen for reactions from any willing villagers. The teams went to Sarangi as well, when he was busy with a spell of fiery speech before a motley crowd. He did the same before our cameras, almost screaming into the horizon, heaping charges on a certain community for indulging in acts of alleged proselytization, interspersed by occasional slogans of Jay Shree Ram.

That was he who today is out to rewrite history. There should be, God forbid, no such history be made, ever.