Hindu pilgrims killed in Kashmir. Bishop Machado: break the chain of hatred

The faithful were on board a coach, returning from the temple of Amarnath. The bus was caught in the cross fire. Assault fuels tension. "No ideology can teach peace." "Peace comes with a conversion of the heart."

Srinagar (AsiaNews) - Seven Hindu pilgrims, including five women, were killed in the terrorist attack last night by some militants in Kashmir. The pilgrims were on a bus on the way back from the Amarnath temple devoted to Shiva, in the Anantnag district. According to witnesses, the vehicle would was caught in crossfire between soldiers and militants who had just attempted an assault on a police bunker. Only the driver's prompt reaction, who sped onwards, prevented worse consequences. There are currently about 30 wounded, none in critical condition.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Archbishop Felix Machado who is Chairperson for Office for Interreligious Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), says he is  “deeply saddened by the killing of seven people. We strongly condemn this ruthless assassination. When will this hatred end? " According to the bishop, "faithful of different religious traditions live in fear, with anxiety and insecurity, under the sword of fundamentalist ideology that does not accept religious pluralism. Unfortunately, we are witnessing an increase in the level of aggression and religious intolerance. There are special interests that do not want peace, but perpetrate violence against innocent people, for their own gain.”

Most of the victims were from Gujarat, the state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who expressed harsh condemnation, defining the incident as "an ignominious attack" and offering government support to state administration. Then he added: "India will not be overwhelmed by these cowardly attacks and evil plans of hatred." Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti met with the wounded and relatives of the victims, who promised to arrest and punish those involved in the aggression that "is against India's values ​​and traditions."

The assault is fueling further tension in Kashmir, upset by years of violent guerrilla warfare. Last year there were riots  following the murder of famous separatist Burhan Wani, assassinated in an Indian Army operation. From then on, in alternating phases, curfews have been imposed in various areas of the state, which has made the life of the local population painful.

Yesterday's incident was condemned by Syed Ali Geelani, leader of the separatists, while the rebels' spokesman has called it an "act of terror." Similarly, Lashkar-e-Toiba, the armed movement believed responsible, has distanced itself from the attack, arguing that it “an attempt to lay the blame on Kashmir militants".

The Archbishop of Vasai says that "we must break the chain of hatred. No ideology can teach peace. Harmony and peace do not always reign in clashes between culture and ethnicity, which often have religious and political implications." "Only religion - he says - teaches peace. There is a growing need for all religious groups to eliminate all forms of intolerance and discrimination. As for states, non-state actors, civil society, leaders and individuals, they must work together urgently through multi-religious actions to overcome threats against peace and growing hostility towards the other " . In conclusion, Msgr. Machado declares: "Peace comes with a conversion of the heart. As examples, we have Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. We pray that the Merciful Father will give peace to those who have been killed and ask God to give consolation and comfort to the victims and their relatives."

(Nirmala Carvalho collaborated)