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Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK

World: South Asia

Hindu groups 'did not kill missionary'

Mrs Staines and her daughter at the funeral of Graham Staines

A judicial commission investigating the murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines last January has found no evidence to link Hindu activists to the killing.

The publication of the Wadhwa Commission report had been keenly awaited by opposition parties who suspect that Hindu nationalist groups were involved in the killing of the missionary and his two sons in January in the eastern state of Orissa.

The commission - whose findings were made public late on Thursday - says there is no evidence to support this theory.

"There is no evidence that any authority or organisation was behind these gruesome killings," it said.

It holds the main suspect, Dara Singh, individually responsible for the killing.

Christian community leaders alleged that Singh was connected to the Bajrang Dal, a radical Hindu militant faction linked to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Growing tension

According to the commission, Singh's motive was to prevent the conversion of tribal people to the Christian faith.

A cash reward has been offered for clues leading to the arrest of Singh and two other suspects.

Some districts in Orissa have witnessed growing tension in recent years between converted Christian tribal and non-Christian tribal people.

Calling the main accused a fanatic, the report says his influence in certain districts of Orissa had increased partly because the state administration was oblivious to the growing tension and because there was no check on him.

Graham Staines and his sons were burnt to death in when a mob set fire to their car as they slept in it.

The killings attracted international attention, and highlighted the growing problem of violence between Hindus and Christians.

Mr Staines had spent 34 years working among Indian lepers. His death was one of a series of attacks on Christian workers in the country.

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