The main objective of the Village Defense Committees (VDC) was to strengthen the security of those living in remote and mountainous areas.
Village Defense Committees (VDC) have once again come on the radar of the Kashmir based political parties in the state.
It is not for the first time mainstream political parties, based in Kashmir, have questioned the existence of these VDC’s and the idea behind arming them to ensure their safety and security.
On many occasions, differences have surfaced in the corridors of power over disbanding Village Defence Committees (VDC).
Both National Conference and PDP along with separatists favoured disbanding VDC’s on many occasions but they had egg on their faces as security grid favoured its continuation.
These parties were of the viewpoint that these VDC’s were created to fight militancy and now the same should be disbanded as it had served its purpose, while BJP opposed them and favoured its continuation.
Instead of welcoming the decision, the PDP leader, tried to encash it politically and started staging protest demonstrations against the move.
What’s a VDC?
VDC’s constitute a group of 10-12 local villagers, trained by the security forces, to maintain a strict vigil in their villages and share information about the movement of terrorists in their respective areas.
The first batch of VDCs was constituted in the early 1990s when terror outfits had started spreading their tentacles in erstwhile Doda region to check targeted killing of Hindu minorities in the area.
After several massacres and cold-blooded targeted killings were executed by the terrorists, to scare away minority Hindu population, the security grid had decided to raise these VDCs and the security forces, including Army units, were entrusted with the responsibility of providing them necessary arms training.
The main objective was to strengthen the security of those living in remote and mountainous areas of Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban, Rajouri, Reasi, Kathua and Poonch districts of the region.
At present over 4000 VDCs exist in the state which not only guards the identified villages along the border but also the infrastructural installations in and around them.
Why VDCs came under scanner now?
The recent war of words, kick-started by a local PDP leader Firdous Tak, is gradually snowballing into a major election issue in the communally sensitive erstwhile Doda district.
In the second week of July 2019, the district administration in Kishtwar started revamping defunct Village Defence committees and decided to replace those, who had attained the age of 60 years, with a younger lot.
Instead of welcoming the decision and supporting the efforts made, in advance by the district police authorities, the PDP leader, tried to encash it politically and started staging protest demonstrations against the move.
In reality, the decision to revamp VDCs was taken at a high-level security review meeting in view of the prevailing security situation in the region.
Targeted killings of top BJP and RSS leaders in the last one year in Kishtwar, followed by incidents of weapon snatching, recovery of arms and ammunition had alerted security forces about the possibility of revival of militancy in the region.
Kishtwar district was earlier declared militancy free in December 2012.
Office of SSP, Kishtwar had released a written statement clarifying, “Keeping in view the present security scenario in Kishtwar town and the overstay of SPOs in District Kishtwar, a fresh overhauling is being done. A process to replace 352 VDC members and 117 VDC SPOs who are above the age of 60 years have been set in motion.
Further, the SPOs, who have over-stayed at a particular place has also been replaced by effecting their transfers.
PDP leader stages protest demonstrations over arming VDCs
Firdous Tak led a protest demonstration outside the office of SSP, Kishtwar and also equated Village Defence Committee (VDC) members with the ‘Godse brigade‘. He wanted to pressurise the district authorities to recall their decision of arming fresh VDCs.
In response to his provocative speech, Kishtwar police registered an FIR against PDP leader and his supporters.
PDP chief and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti too decided to join the chorus and warned the state administration that the move would have “dangerous consequences”.
After registration of FIR, PDP leader, Firdous Tak vent his ire on social media.
Reacting to the police action, PDP leader Firdous Tak tweeted. “When the administration is more answerable to Chadi-Dharis and report to Nagpur. This is what happens when you speak about Sanghis in Modi’s New India”.
Another PDP leader Aijaz Ahmad Mir tweeted, “There are no words to condemn this action of registering FIR against PDP leader Firdous Tak for protesting against the plans to create more VDCs in Kishtwar. The soul of democracy is dying a slow death under the present rule.”
VDCs useful instrument for the state: Army
General Officer Commanding in Chief (GoC-In-C) of Udhampur based Northern Command headquarters, Lt-Gen Ranbir Singh had earlier batted strongly for “energising” village defence committees (VDCs) in Jammu and Kashmir calling them a “useful instrument” for the state.
“VDCs are the most useful instrument available with the state”, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh had told reporters during a media interaction.
“They (VDCs) are always to be energised and they shall be able to take on responsibility (of securing the villages in remote and hilly areas) tasked to them,” he added.
The Army commander said that it must be ensured that the volunteers are provided weapons so that they can defend their villages and pass information to the security forces regarding movement and presence of terrorists.
“All have to play a role to ensure peace and normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.