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Buddha’s Smile School Update: Child Murdered, Sukdev Saini Struck in Motor Accident

Some sad news has come to us since the printing of our recent story on Buddha’s Smile School (BSS) in the summer edition of Spectrum.
Several weeks ago, the husband of BSS director and Unsung Heroes awardee Rajan Kaur Saini, was involved in a serious motorcycle accident. Sukdev was nearing his house in Sarnath, India, one dark evening when he heard the sound of a car coming toward him. Seeing no headlights, he moved his bike over to the side of the road to let the vehicle pass. But rather than passing, the vehicle sped up, struck him, and then bolted from the scene. Neighbors came to fetch Rajan, who quickly took her husband to the hospital. Things did not look good for Sukdev, and for nearly a week his life hung in the balance. Sukdev sustained numerous lacerations, broken ribs, internal injuries, a crushed hand, and damage to his right leg that was irreparable. After receiving 22 units of blood, Rajan finally made the hard decision to have her husband’s leg amputated.
Sukdev is doing well now. He is recovering at home and is keeping himself busy by searching for new recipes to try at his café once he is mobile again. He will be fitted for a prosthetic leg in a couple months. Meanwhile, the driver that struck him has not been found. It is likely that he was targeted because of the family’s commitment to serving Varanasi’s “undesirable” residents. Besides Dalits and the children of people with leprosy, BSS also educates Muslim children of the Bangladeshi immigrant community. Varanasi is one of Hinduism’s most historic cities, and the Sainis have already received threats connected with their openness towards Muslims. Some speculate that the accident was an expression of Hindu extremism.
More tragic than Sukdev’s accident is news we received only a few days ago. A twelve year old graduate of BSS, Pankaj Kumar, was murdered. Pankaj was attending a local middle school on scholarship funds and was receiving evening tutorials at BSS. He was a talented child, mentally strong, compassionate, and liked by all who knew him. Investigations have revealed that last week Pankaj came across four boys raping a young girl in Sarnath, which he threatened to report. Out of revenge, the four boys took Pankaj from his home later that night and murdered him, throwing his body above a temple. He was found several days later in a road drain with his hands tied behind his back.
The teachers, friends, and sponsors of BSS are grieving right now. There are no words to express the meaning of this act; it wounds us in our deepest inner places. Rajan is in the beginning stages of setting up a BSS scholarship fund in his name. Please join us in prayer for the friends and family of little Pankaj, who is yet another unsung hero.

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