Maoists kill 25 police in Chhattisgarh, church wants dialogue

April 26, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Bhopal, April 26, 2017: Catholic officials have urged for dialogue after Maoist rebels killed more than 20 Indian paramilitary police in a remote region of restive eastern Indian Chhattisgarh state.

Hundreds of rebels ambushed a contingent of paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force guarding road construction workers in the Sukma district of the state on April 24, local reports said. The attack left 25 paramilitary officers dead and six injured.

It was the second such attack this year. At least 12 paramilitary personnel were killed on March 12 in a similar attack in the same district which is a Maoist-stronghold.

The decades-long struggle, purportedly to assert the rights of poor people over their land and resources, is stronger in the tribal areas of the state, where Maoists run a parallel government.

Church people in the area said the continuing violence between government forces and the rebels has made normal life impossible in Sukma and nearby areas.

“The government should immediately start the process to set up a dialogue with the rebels to find peace,” said Archbishop Victor Henry Thakur of Raipur, based in the state capital.

The language of terrorism cannot be accepted as a method to establish justice for the poor, Archbishop Thakur said. The church supports tribal people asserting their rights but “stands totally against the method of violence. Dialogue should be the only way,” he said.

Following the Indian Supreme Court’s suggestion, the state government, in October 2016, announced plans to hold talks with the rebels. Further plans have been made concerning the surrender and rehabilitation of the Maoists who are mostly young tribal people. However, the government has yet to start the process.

More than 6,000 people have died during the rebels’ 20-year fight across parts of India although some sources say the death toll is double that.

Father Thomas Kollikolavil, the social work director of Jagdalpur Diocese that covers Sukma, said “a deep-rooted frustration” among local people was the cause of “this unjustifiable violence.”

“Despite the government doing a lot for the poor, there is a feeling that the government has not taken care of their interests in state programs and policies,” Father Kollikolavil said.

The violence could also be seen “as a class struggle between the haves and the have-nots,” he said, adding that the poor feel exploited by the rich and their government supporters.

Father Antony Bara, vicar general of Ambikapur Diocese, also in the state, blamed “lopsided government policies” for increasing violence in tribal-dominated areas.

He said the state government amended two laws last year, ending tribal peoples’ exclusive rights over their land and helping the government to usurp it for industrial projects.

“In this process, the poor and illiterate tribal people are harassed and deprived of their basic constitutional rights. They feel frustrated and so many young people support the Maoists and revolt against the government,” the priest said.

“We want lasting peace in the region so everyone involved in violence should shun it and start the process of dialogue,” he said.

Father Abraham Kannampalackal, vicar general and spokesperson of Jagdalpur Diocese, told the killing of the soldiers on duty could not be justified. “Violence is no solution to any problem,” the priest said, also stressing the need for dialogue.

– ucan

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