No plans to disband VDCs

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JAMMU: Carved in the mid-1990s to combat Pakistan-sponsored infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir, the village defence committees (VDCs) remain indispensable even after more than two decades of their inception.
Despite some stray incidents of VDC members using their official weapons to settle their personal scores in the recent past and subsequent demands by separatists to disband them, successive governments in the state didn’t deem it apt to agree to such demands.
“There is no such proposal under consideration of the present government to disband them. The VDCs still hold relevance as militancy has not died down. There are no talks by the present PDP-BJP dispensation since it took over the reins on April 4,” said a senior bureaucrat of Home Department who insisted anonymity.
It may be recalled here that in December last year, a VDC member, Mushtaq Ahmad, had barged into the house of a woman, Shamima Akhter, in Budhal village of Rajouri district and had shot her and her minor son dead with his official weapon. The woman had spurned his advances. Her husband worked in Saudi Arabia.
Members of the VDCs have been issued .303 guns by the J&K Police to combat militants. 
In December last year, National Conference worker Ishtiyaq Choudhary of Kalakote village in Rajouri district was shot dead by another VDC member.
The VDCs are present only in the Jammu region and are not raised in Kashmir. The VDCs were set up in the mid-1990s to deal with militancy in remote and hilly corners of the Jammu region where the presence of security forces was either nil or thin.
“The security forces are also witness to incidents of fratricide. So, should we disband the forces? We should read into the machinations of separatists and sympathisers of militancy, who despite their best efforts, have not been able to spread their tentacles across the Jammu region,” said a senior police officer.
“No doubt, terrorist-related violence has gone down across the Jammu region but the VDCs can’t be disbanded because people in remote villages must have some protection at their disposal. Selective killings and massacres of minority communities still remain fresh in the minds of all,” he said.
“They played a very crucial role in combating terrorists in remote and inaccessible areas where the security forces could not reach in time. Any move to disband them at this stage would definitely recoil,” he added.
A VDC in Kulali village near Hill Kaka in Poonch where Operation “Sarp Vinash” was carried out by the Army in 2003 played a significant role in combating terrorists. The security forces had killed over 60 terrorists in the operation.

 

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