GOI To Form Village Defence Groups In J&K

Members of Village Defence Committees | File Photo

Srinagar- A day after Jammu BJP leaders called on Home Minister Amit Shah and demanded revival of the village defence committees (VDCs), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday ordered the constitution of Village Defence Groups (VDGs) in Jammu and Kashmir.

According to an order, a copy of which lies with Kashmir Observer, the Under Secretary to the Government of India (MHA) has written a communication to Chief Secretary of J&K, informing him that the issue regarding revised scheme of village defence groups (VDGs) has been examined in the Ministry and a few decisions have been taken.

“The members of the Village Defence Group shall be designated as Village Defence Guard (VDG),” the order reads.

It further reads that in more vulnerable areas, persons (VI category) who shall be leading/ coordinating the VDG would be paid of Rs. 4500 per month and other persons (V2 category) who are members of these VDGs on voluntary basis will be paid a uniform rate Rs. 4000 per month. “VDGs will function under the direction of SP/SSP of the concerned District,” the communication reads.

The revised scheme will, however, be made effective only after apprising the High Court, the order reads.

“In case of vacancy, the decision to fill up the same will be taken later,” the communication reads underlining that competent authority has approved it.

Previously known as VDCs, the state-run militia was set up in the mid-90s in remote hilly villages of militancy-hit districts of Jammu province including Kishtwar, Doda, Reasi, Ramban, Poonch and Rajouri for self-defence and tacking militancy.

The group armed with weapons used to help the government forces in fighting militancy. However, some of the VDC members were also involved in a number of criminal cases soon after the graph of militancy came down in Jammu.

In 2016, the PDP-BJP coalition government informed the erstwhile state’s legislative assembly that 221 cases were registered against VDC members including 23 cases of murder, seven cases of rape and 15 cases of rioting.

“Three cases were not admitted by the courts while two were declared “untraced”. In 205 cases, chargesheet has been filed before the competent court of law while seven cases are “under investigation”, the Government had said.

“While 37 cases were settled through compromise, 42 VDC members were acquitted of the charges by the courts. Only five members were convicted,” J&K’s last legislative assembly was told.

BJP Says VDG's A 'Boost To Security Grid'

Meanwhile the Jammu and Kashmir BJP on Wednesday said the revival of village defence committees (VDCs) as village defence groups (VDGs) will ensure their financial empowerment, besides boosting the security grid in the Union territory.

The party demanded that VDGs should be equipped with modern weapons so that they can give a befitting reply to militants in mountainous and remote areas.

"The revival of VDCs by renaming them VDGs and considering other genuine demands, including financial empowerment, will boost Jammu and Kashmir's security grid," state BJP general secretary Sunil Sharma told reporters here, as per news agency PTI.

Sharma, who hails from Kishtwar district, said there was a time when militancy was at its peak and innocent people were being killed ‘mercilessly’.

"People from hilly and far-flung areas were migrating to safer places. BJP leaders, particularly Atal Behari Vajpayee and L K Advani, launched the 'Doda Bachao Andolan' and raised their voice for the constitution of VDCs in 1990s.

Their struggle culminated in setting up of VDCs in all the 10 districts of Jammu province with arms to counter terrorism," the former minister added.

Sharma claimed that once in an interview, a militant had admitted that he was most scared of the VDCs.

He said that despite the important role played by the committees, their salary distribution system was not streamlined and some members did not get their salaries.

"Many VDCs are now non-functional or disbanded. Many VDC members had submitted their resignations and deposited weapons, so that they could avail benefits under the BPL category," he added.

Sharma said J&K BJP chief Ravinder Raina had consistently taken up the cause of VDCs at different levels.

He said now that the Union Home Ministry has revived the committees as village defence groups (VDGs), it will go a long way in meeting the genuine demands of their members who will be entitled to one rank and equal salary that will directly be transferred into their accounts.

He also stressed on the need to equip them with modern weapons to give a befitting reply to any militant attack in the future.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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