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Widespread condemnation over militant attack in Kashmir

Assault in which 17 soldiers died sparks outrage across India, bishops call for tough stand

Widespread condemnation over militant attack in Kashmir

Indians hold candles as they pay tribute in Mumbai on Sept. 19,  to  17 Indian soldiers killed in a militant attack at an army base in Uri, in Indian-administered Kashmir. (Photo by AFP) 


The killing of 17 soldiers by terrorists in a Sept. 18 attack has sent shock waves across India with bishops urging the government to take a tough stand.

Four heavily armed terrorists infiltrated an army base in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state. They threw grenades and set fire to tents, killing 12 soldiers. The rest died in the ensuing gunfight.

At least 20 more soldiers were injured. All the terrorists were killed in the shootout that continued for nearly four hours. No terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The assault has sparked outrage in the country with condemnation of the attacks and tributes for the dead soldiers pouring in from all quarters.

"Violence is not the response to violence but we need to take a tough stand in diplomatic circles on the issue world over. Of late the attacks have increased considerably and that is a worry for the country," said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.

The attack comes two months after the killing of a secessionist leader, Burhan Wani, on July 8. Over 65 people were killed and 5,000 injured, including members of the security forces, after thousands of people took to streets to protest the police shooting.

Separatists allege that India’s ruling pro-Hindu government is employing "strong arm tactics" to crush a "genuine demand" for self-determination. 

Ever since 1947, when India and Pakistan become separate states after British rule ended, Jammu and Kashmir has been disputed territory with both countries ruling part of it. Demands for freedom from India escalated into armed struggle some 30 years ago and has claimed some 100,000 lives, including those of civilians, militants and security forces. 

"Conflicts can never be resolved through hardened military doctrine," Anuradha Basin, a Kashmir-based veteran journalist, told "They need to be resolved through negotiations and dialogue. The more one delays that, the more we, as humans, will be left with the collective burden of regret." 

Father Shyju Chacko, spokesperson of Jammu-Srinagar Diocese that covers the entire state, said the Uri attack has caused alarm. "Dialogue is the only long-standing solution to the issue," he said. The priest said that prayers were conducted in all churches of Jammu and Kashmir for peace and for the souls of the departed soldiers.

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