By Robin Gomes
India’s Catholic Church has condemned the deadly terrorist attack on the country’s paramilitary police in Kashmir on Thursday that killed 44 soldiers and expressed its pain for the families who lost their loved ones.
A suicide bomber rammed a car loaded with explosives into a bus carrying the Central Reserve Force Police to Srinagar, the main city of India-administered Kashmir. The bus was part of a convoy of about 70 vehicles carrying about 2,500 troops to the restive region.
The Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility for the attack.
The CRPF is working with the Indian military to quell the 30-year insurgency in Kashmir.
Kashmir is a Muslim-majority region at the heart of decades of hostility between India and Pakistan. The neighbours both rule parts of the region while claiming the entire territory as theirs.
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, the secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), denounced Feb. 14 attack as “mindless violence”.
“It’s a very sad day for us here in India. It’s a sad day for those 44 and more families who have lost their very young sons as well as for those who are injured,” lamented Bishop Mascarenhas in an interview to Vatican News.
The Indian bishops feel the pain of the country as the nation is “feeling pained at what should have never happened”.
The CBCI secretary-general warned that “violence cannot solve anything and violence will not bring anything to anyone.”
“The earlier these hard-hearted people stop killing innocent people in suicide bombs and in wayside killings, the better it is,” he said.
The Indian bishops pray for their country and for those mourning their beloved. At the same time, they also pray that peace may prevail and no more lives are lost in this “mindless violence”.
In a separate statement posted on the CBCI website, the Indian bishops condemned the “dastardly and cowardly attack on our soldiers in Kashmir.”
“The Catholic Church in India mourns the death of our soldiers who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty,” read the statement by the CBCI, the apex body of the Catholic Church in India.
The bishops said their “hearts go out to the families who have lost their beloved” and prayed for them “in this difficult and sorrowful moment”.
The bishops entrusted the souls of the brave soldiers into the loving embrace of the Almighty and invoked Him to grant them eternal rest.
Stressing that “violence solves no purpose and can never solve any issue,” the Indian bishops prayed for peace and harmony and for their beloved nation that in this grave moment may act with wisdom and with the grace of God.
Tensions have heightened further between India and Pakistan following Thursday’s attack.
The Indian government accused Pakistan of letting militant groups operate from its soil and called on it to take action.
Islamabad said it rejected the suggestion it was linked to the attack.
Pakistan has previously denied New Delhi's accusations that it gives material help to the militants fighting Indian rule in Muslim-majority Kashmir. It says it gives only moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.
Indian forces have sporadically battled Islamist militants in mountainous Kashmir since an armed revolt in 1989 in which tens of thousands were killed, but car bombings are rare.
The last major attack in Kashmir was in 2016 when militants raided an Indian army camp in Uri, killing 20 soldiers.
Tension with Pakistan rose after that incident when New Delhi said the attackers had come from Pakistan to stage the assault. Pakistan denied any involvement.