VDCs being strengthened, rejuvenated
After the gruesome terror attack on members of the Hindu community in Dangri village of frontier Rajouri district, a hue and cry was raised over strengthening the existing Village Defence Committees (VDC) to tackle the growing threat of targeted killings in the region.
Seven civilians including two children were killed in two back-to-back incidents of terrorist violence.
The death toll could have been much higher if one of the VDC members present in the Dangri village had not retaliated to the firing.
After the terror strike, the local residents staged day-long protests, and demonstrations and refused to perform the last rites of the deceased terror victims demanding beefing up of Village Defence Committees and equipping them with modern weapons and the latest combat training.
Exposing the tall claims of the UT administration, the local residents also brought out the issue of surrender of weapons issued to the Village Defence Committee members in the local police station and the non-renewal of gun licence to locals and ex-servicemen in the area. The villagers in the Dangri area claimed if they had weapons with them they could have fought back instead of becoming sitting ducks for the terrorists.
When Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha visited Rajouri and met with the members of the deceased families they once again raised the issue of beefing up VDCs in the area. LG Sinha gave them verbal assurance.
LG issues orders to arm VDC members
While chairing a security review meeting on the spot LG Manoj Sinha directed the local district authorities to immediately issue weapons to the members of the existing VDCs in the area and further carry out a review of the prevailing security situation before suggesting other security measures.
Meanwhile, several senior security experts and retired police officers defended the local population and advocated the urgent need to strengthen the Village Defence Committees on a priority basis.
Security experts opined that the members of the Village Defence Committees have been suffering in isolation for a long time. The decision to revive and strengthen these VDCs has come at the right time as attempts were being made by terrorist handlers to revive militancy and target radicalized youth. These VDC members act as force multipliers and can keep a close watch on the suspicious activities of these anti-national elements to ensure peace in the region.
Confidence Building Exercise
Senior Superintendent of Police, Rajouri District, Mohammad Aslam said, “we have started distributing weapons to the members of the Village Defence Committees as part of a confidence-building exercise. SSP Rajouri said, on the directions of the higher authorities, we are organizing special training camps at various locations along with the Indian Army where we are giving them firing practice and how to keep the weapon clean for better performance.
Meanwhile, several members of the Village Defence Committees in the frontier districts of Rajouri and Poonch and in the Chenab valley region of Doda, Kishtwar, and Ramban have been organizing long night patrols during the night to prevent any suspicious movement of terrorists in the area.
VDCs were constituted in 1995
The Village Defence Committees (VDCs) were constituted in 1995 at the peak of militancy.
According to former DGP Dr. SP Vaid in 1995, “Radical Islamist terrorists under the direction of Pak ISI attempted genocide & ethnic cleansing of Hindu minority in hilly regions of Jammu in the early 90s. Their attempt was thwarted by the timely constitution of Village Defence Committees (VDC) now known as Village Defence Groups (VDGs).
Dr. Vaid said the first VDC was formed in the village of Bagankote by me when I was SSP Udhampur. The constitution of VDCs supported by the massive deployment of units of RR (Indian Army) and CAPF saved the situation in spite of many massacres in this area.
“Later VDCs were formed through a formal J&K government order in Chenab valley region of Jammu division where Hindus are in minority,” he said.
He alleged that after the migration of Kashmiri Pandits from Valley, militants started targeting the minority Hindus and carried out their massacre in the Chenab region of Jammu province.
“But soon VDCs were constituted and people were given arms training. Muslims were also made part of the VDCs as they also faced militant attacks. This formula proved to be very successful and the mass exodus of Hindus was prevented,” he said while advocating the creation of VDCs in Kashmir as well.
Performance of VDCs
Village Defence Committees remained at the forefront of counter-terrorist operations at the peak of militancy in the Jammu region.
More than 27,000 VDC members are currently enrolled with the Home Department in Jammu and Kashmir.
These VDC members have been performing different duties in different topographies of the region.
They assist the Border Security force and the Indian Army and act as their eyes and ears on ground zero to prevent any major infiltration bid while directly fighting with the terrorists in the hilly areas of the Chenab valley region where the minority population was targeted to trigger a second wave of migration.
These VDC members were trained in self defence, and imparted the training of weapon handling, and security drills at regular training camps/ workshops organized by the Indian army and Jammu and Kashmir police.
VDC’s renamed as VDGs
In its new avatar, the existing Village Defence Committee have been renamed as Village Defence Groups, and their members are labeled as Village Defence Group Guards (VDGGs).
Each VDG comprises eight to 10 members and all of them have equal rank and will receive monthly salaries in their bank accounts.
Last year when a delegation of Village Defence Committee members called on Union Home Minister Amit Shah in the month of March 2022. He gave them an assurance that MHA will soon issue an order regarding the revival of the VDCs by renaming them as VDGs and all the members will be paid an honorarium by the government instead of the previous arrangement in which one or two Special Police Officers (SPOs) were attached with each VDC and their remuneration were shared by all.
Earlier two to three SPOs were attached to VDCs and their salaries were distributed among the VDC members. Almost two years ago some of the SPOs went to court seeking directions not to distribute their salaries among the VDC members. This led to non-payment of salaries to several VDCs in the region and the same became non-functional as well for want of basic support.
During the meeting with the VDC members the Union Home Minister also announced that the non-existent VDCs will be immediately revived and vacancies arising out of deaths of the members or having quit due to lack of payment or other reasons will also be filled shortly.
Later the formal order for the creation of VDGs was issued on August 14, 2022.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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