This much seems certain: Earlier this month, the corpse of a teenage boy named Samaru Madkami was found dismembered in a shallow grave in Odisha, India.
Here’s the story from the Hindustan Times: Madkami, who was 18, had been accused of black magic after some local men died with unexplained symptoms. Hellbent on revenge, hotheads formed a posse to go after the alleged witchcraft practitioner; at least four of them then kidnapped and killed the boy (below).
Now here’s the story as I subsequently found it on the website of the Barnabas Fund, a charity group that helps persecuted Christians. Madkami, who in this telling was only 14, was murdered by religious fanatics, presumably Hindus, who were upset over his family’s conversion to Christianity three years ago.
This version takes on remarkable martyrdom overtones when the victim’s spiritual shepherd is introduced:
Samru’s pastor was “inconsolable” on hearing of the boy’s death. Sobbing, Pastor Bijay said, “Samru was a passionate Christian. He always shared the Gospel with youth and children from the village.” He recalled Samru’s recent words to him, “If anything happens to my pastor, I will not fear. I will take charge of pastor’s work and serve the Lord!”
Note that the anonymous Barnabas Fund’s author misspells the boy’s first name three out of 11 times: Samru instead of Samaru. Not a cardinal sin by any means, but it’s perhaps indicative of a lack of dedication to accuracy. The same is true for the report on the Christian website persecution.org, where Samaru becomes Sombura.
At the competing persecutionrelief.org, we come across a photo of a dead body that the website says is Samaru’s, even though it appears to be intact, which is odd considering that the body had been “chopped into pieces.”
The Christian Post also published the religious-murder version of Madkami’s death, relying heavily on the Persecution Relief report. Author Samuel Smith‘s piece consists of 25 paragraphs, 24 of which are all-in for the notion that Madkami is a Christian martyr.
Without segue or explanation, Smith dedicates one brief passage to the Hindustan Times article:
According to Hindustan Times, killings over accusations of witchcraft are not new in Odisha and there have been at least 17 tribals killed in the last three months. In February, another tribal person from the Maklangiri district was killed by a neighbor over suspicion that he practiced black magic.
The Barnabas Fund version of events further claims, without corroborating links, that there’s been
…a spate of disturbing attacks in Kenduguda village over the past month,
… three incidents of religious extremists attempting to tie up Christians in jute sacks in order to throw them in the river.
Smith, at the Christian Post, repeats this.
I can’t say for sure that that did or didn’t happen, but I’ve found no sources confirming it, and it frankly sounds… bizarre. Who uses this drown-’em-in-a-sack murder method, other than witches and similar evil creatures in ancient folk tales?
By the way, there are only about 200 houses in Kenduguda village, and roughly 800 people. A string of recent brutal attacks on Christians (including an attempted burning of two victims, claims the Barnabas article) could hardly go unnoticed, especially in a time of widespread cell phone use. Are there police reports of these sensational events? First-hand social-media stories? Where is the press coverage of all this attempted carnage, preferably from a more or less reliable source — the Times of India, say, or the Hindu, or the Hindustan Times? Are all of India’s journalists asleep at the wheel somehow?
Either the killing of Samaru Madkami was an anti-Christian hate crime, in which case the Hindustan Times article I mentioned in the beginning is a whitewash to take the blame off of Hindus; or it was indeed, as that paper reported, an act of vigilantism by superstitious numbskulls against a presumed caster of evil spells.
In either case, the truth is subservient to a religious agenda in which a dead boy is used like a marionette to score points for the tribe; and in the case of the Christian charities, to raise money with lies and exaggerations.
P.S.: Odisha, formerly Orissa, has repeatedly been the scene of purported crimes against Christians that turned out to be hoaxes and misrepresentations.
Sister Mary had filed a false FIR [first information report, a statement to police, TF] and that she had not, in fact, been raped.
Then, on February 7 of that year, two young Christians, 10 and 19 years old, were found murdered. Considering that the rape of the nun hadn’t yet been exposed as made up, the media took this as evidence that Orissa’s Christians were coming under violent attack. In the end, however, the double homicide turned out to have been committed by a Christian relative of the victims.
Those two events came on the heels of the actual, well-substantiated January 1999 murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons, Philip (10) and Timothy (6), also in Orissa. Horrifyingly, a gang of Hindu fundamentalists burned the three alive in their car. A fictionalized movie version of Staines’ life, starring Stephen Baldwin, was released last year.