Indian Church leader seeks dialogue after death of 22 soldiers

A Catholic Church leader in India called for dialogue after Maoist rebels killed 22 security personnel in Chhattisgarh state on April 3.

Church officials said a Christian was among those killed in the four-hour gun battle, the deadliest attack in four years in the eastern state. It also left at least 30 soldiers injured.

The government has not immediately shared the details of the dead with the media, according to a report from UCA News.

“I am sad that our security personnel are killed in their call to duty. We condemn all forms of violence. This cannot be justified in the name of anything,” said Archbishop Victor Henry Thakur of Raipur.

Maoists, locally known as Naxals, have been engaged in an armed insurgency for more than four decades. Their leaders say the fight is for poor villagers and tribal people who have not benefited from India’s economic growth.

The attack happened in the forested areas of Bijapur and Sukma districts as security forces carried out a major search operation against the rebels.

Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, where the killings occurred, is one of the worst Maoist-infested areas in the country. 

Besides civilians, close to 200 security personnel have been killed in the region since 2010, according to reports.

Archbishop Thakur told UCA News on April 5 that the rebels should hold dialogue with the government and end the violence.

“We can settle any dispute or disagreement through dialogue and violence has never been a solution to any problem,” he said.