Village Defense Committee’s should be disbanded. Now!

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A 4 year old kid and his 36 year old mother were murdered by a member of the Village Defense Committee (VDC) in Rahouri on the 24th of December, 2015. Hardly a week ago, was a politician murdered by a VDC member. Grist to the mill for disbanding the VDC’s was added by the politician’s murder; now demands for disbanding the committees have reached a crescendo. All shades of opinion in the state-political, lay, public and considered ones- are asserting that the VDC’s should be disbanded with immediate effect. Our newspapers adds it weight to the calls for the dissolution of the VDC’s.

Before explication and elaborating our reasons for the call to disband VDC’ s , a  brief word on the nature and genesis of VDC’s is called for. VDC’s were formed by the state to combat widespread militancy in the state. Able bodied men were chosen to form armed groups which could fight militants. They were given guns. Now, however, it increasingly appears that VDC members are turning to violent crime with their allotted weapons. Recourse to violent crime by the VDC’s is perhaps the inevitable outcome of possession of guns by individuals.  At the end of the day, we are all human. Human nature is a compendium of the good, noble, bad and the ugly. Context and the nature of individual personalities determined which side-the noble, the good, or the bad- predominates in a given situation. Key here, which determines, whether the bad or aggressive side predominates in a given situation is the supply and availability of weapons. This may be critiqued on the grounds that anything can be used and wielded as a weapon in a rage/anger determined situation. However, while this may be true from a hypothetical perspective, reality suggests that availability of weapons –especially guns-increases the chances and probability of violent crime. That is, there is a correlation between supply, availability of guns and violent crime. The murder incidents that happened in Rajouri over the past week corroborate this thesis. This is not just a thesis; Criminological research validates the assertion and thesis of a correlation between violent crime and availability of guns. According to this strand of criminological research, 

“Weapons are a source of power used instrumentally to achieve goals by inducing compliance with the user’s demands. The goals of a potential gun user are numerous and could include money, sexual gratification, respect, attention, or domination”(Altheimer I, 2010).

This is overlain by theoretical perspectives that suggest that gun availability increases both total crime rates and gun crime rates.  There are basically two theses about this: the facilitation thesis and the triggering hypothesis.

“The facilitation and triggering hypotheses focus primarily on the effects of gun availability on total crime rates, while the instrumentality hypothesis focuses primarily on the substitution of guns for other weapons during the commission of a crime and the implications that this has for gun crime rates. The facilitation hypothesis suggests that increasing gun availability can increase total rates of assault and robbery when the availability of a gun provides encouragement to someone considering an attack or to someone who normally would not commit an attack. This encouragement is derived from the fact that the possession of a gun can enhance the power of a potential aggressor, thereby ensuring compliance from a victim, increasing the chances that the crime will be successfully completed, and reducing the likelihood that an actual physical attack (as opposed to a threat) will be necessary”.(Altheimer I, 2010).Guns, it is held, also trigger the aggression of a person. This effect called the weapons effect –negative emotion is transferred onto the weapon which makes its use attractive

There is intuitive as well as theoretical and empirical merit to the correlation and link between supply, availability of guns and violent crime.  This established research and its empirical validity should be a cautionary reminder about bandying or disbursing guns to people. This is the general criticism. More specifically, in the context of Jammu and Kashmir, and given that three people have lost their lives in less than a week to gun violence- guns given to members of the VDC’s-it is vitally imperative that the supply side should be discontinued. That is to say, VDC’s should be disbanded. Some officials of the state have asserted that it is individual members of the VDC’s that have committed these crimes not the organization itself. The implication here is that individual behavior is idiosyncratic; an entire organization cannot be penalized for the errant behavior of individual(s). But we contend that the three murders over the last week cannot be crimes in isolation or isolated events. These murders correspond to the the premises of criminological research. The murders, could turn out to be , prelude to more crimes-both in terms of intensity and frequency.  There is another pitfall with the continuation of VDC’s: the problem of vigilantism. A person with a gun which means power could well become the arbiter of juctice disregarding the institutions of justice of the state. 

Moreover, the logic of the VDC’s is at odds with the state’s claim that peace has prevailed in the state. If the state is right and correct in its assessment, why maintain the VDC’s? 

Pre-emption not prevention is the need of the hour. A pre-emptive approach would mean nipping the problem in the bud which would practically entail the dissolution of the VDC’s. In the interests of peace, law and justice, the VDC’s should then be disbanded. Logic as well as morality and philosophy of justice is in favor of the dissolution of the VDC’s. It is about time that a serious review of the Village Defense Committee’s should be conducted and these organizations disbanded before it is too late.

Altheimer I, “An Exploratory Analysis of Guns and Violent Crime in a Cross-National Sample of Cities” Wayne State University, 2010


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