Chandrakanta Pradhan, a 28-year-old soldier, was killed at the India-China border during a clash with the Chinese army. His father described him as sincere and courageous. (Photo supplied)
Kandhamal district in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, the epicenter of anti-Christian violence in 2008, is mourning the death of a Catholic who was among 20 Indian soldiers killed in a clash with Chinese troops.
Chandrakanta Pradhan, who attended Our Lady of Charity Church in Raikia parish of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archdiocese, was killed on June 15 at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
The 28-year-old soldier was laid to rest in his native village of Bearpanga on June 18 with church rituals.
“On behalf of the All India Catholic Union Bhubaneswar region, Odisha, I deeply mourn the heroic death of Chandrakant Pradhan. He belonged to an ideal Catholic family of the land of Christian martyrs, Kandhamal,” Prasanna Bishoyi, president of the All India Catholic Union Bhubaneswar, told UCA News.
“As president of the Catholic Union, I request all Christians to light a candle in loving memory of the departed soul in every family prayer. Let us convey our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family."
Chandrakanta’s father Karunakar Pradhan told PTI news agency that he was informed of his son's death by a military official.
"My son Chandrakanta was sincere, courageous, simple and hard-working. I am proud of him. My son was the principal breadwinner of the family,” he said.
Chandrakanta, who joined the army in 2014, is survived by two younger brothers, an elder sister and his parents.
The clash with Chinese soldiers in the Galwan Valley has intensified the tense deadlock in the border region.
Indian army officials on June 16 initially said there were only three deaths but later said that 17 other soldiers who were seriously injured had died.
“Chandrakanta died for the country. I pray that God may grant him eternal reward. We extend heartfelt condolences to his family as he made the supreme sacrifice in action,” said Father Prodeep Behera, who is based in Kandhamal’s Phulbani.
“Chandrakanta Pradhan, a young soldier, was one of 20 soldiers from Raikia, Kandhamal. He was brave yet humble. He always wore faith and love for the country. We salute him,” said Father Ajaya Kumar Singh, a rights activist and former director of Odisha Forum for Social Action in Bhubaneswar.
Meanwhile, Odisha's Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has announced an ex gratia payment of 2.5 million rupees to the next of the kin of the two Odisha soldiers who were killed. The other soldier from the state was 43-year-old Nanduram Soren.
This was the biggest confrontation between India and China since the 1967 Nathu La clash at a mountain pass in the Himalayas that connects Sikkim state with China's Tibet Autonomous Region.
The Nathu La clash claimed the lives of over 80 Indian soldiers and more than 300 Chinese soldiers, according to India's Defence Ministry, though China disputes those figures.
The Ministry of External Affairs alleged that the latest clash was caused by China’s attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the area.
However, China says it has always had sovereignty over the Galvan Valley region. Beijing claimed that Indian troops carried out deliberately provocative attacks that led to the conflict.
Kandhamal witnessed one of the worst anti-Christian riots in the country 12 years ago. On Aug. 23, 2008, as Hindus celebrated the birth of lord Krishna, their leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was shot dead.
Hindu radicals targeted Christians after dubbing the murder a Christian conspiracy. The violence that continued for seven weeks killed some 100 people, rendered 56,000 homeless and destroyed 6,000 houses and 300 churches.