J&K Govt Nod To VDGs For Self Protection, Checking Cross-LOC Movement

Members of Village Defence Committees | File Photo

Srinagar- The Jammu & Kashmir Government’s home department on Sunday accorded official sanction for the creation of Village Defence Guards Scheme (VDGS)-2022, in an attempt to “inculcate an attitude of self protection in security matters amongst the local population and to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of the nation”.

In an order, a copy of which lies with Kashmir Observer, UT Administration’s Financial Commissioner Raj Kumar Goyal sanctioned the creation of VDGS-2022.

“In pursuance of the approval conveyed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India vide referred communication and in supersession of the Government Order No.Home-293 of 1995, dated 30.09.1995, sanction is hereby accorded to the creation of the Village Defence Guards Scheme (VDGS)-2022, as per the details, forming annexure to this Order. The Scheme shall come into operation w.e.f. 15′ August, 2022 and shall have prospective effect,” reads the order.

Pertinently, in 1995, when militancy was at its peak, village defence committees (VDCs) with 9-10 locals in border villages of Jammu were raised by New Delhi with an idea that these groups would tackle militancy that had spread from Kashmir to the Pir Panjal and Chenab Valley regions of Jammu. Initially, there were around 5,000 VDC members but over the years the numbers have risen to over 20,000.

As per the latest UT administration’s order, the aim of the Village Defence Guards Scheme (VDGs) is to organize a small group of volunteer armed civilians in the identified villages along the borders as well as in-depth areas of the Jammu division, “with a view to instill sense of self protection and ensure the safety and security of such’ villages, infrastructural installations in and around them and to check the trans-border movement”.

“Under the Scheme, the Village Defence Guards shall be charged with the responsibility of protecting community installations and infrastructure facilities within the defined areas of their village and the Village Defence Guards would conduct night and day patrolling in a systematic manner,” the order reads.

As per an SP level official, who also maintains an expertise in anti-militancy operations, VDGs are an important component of the security setup in J&K.

“VDGs are the unofficial first line of defence in J&K to counter militants at initial stages. That’s why they’ll be trained in the handling of new weapons and drone warfare. Police will also work on improving communication with these members during emergency to reduce delays when responding to militants,” the official told Kashmir Observer on the basis of anonymity.

He further said that Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh is personally looking into upgrading VDGs.

“DGP has pleaded this case with the Union Ministry and he’s also exploring new opportunities to provide high tech training to the members so that they can tackle any unprecedented situation,” the official said, adding that VDG members will be soon provided with new weapons and other technical assistance.

The order further noted that the areas/villages, where the earlier scheme was in operation shall be considered as “more vulnerable areas” for the purpose of the scheme and the arrangements made pursuant to the earlier scheme shall now be governed by the instant scheme.

“Apart from these areas/villages, any other area/village, which may be considered as “more vulnerable area” by the law enforcement agencies, necessitating application of the Scheme to such other area/village, the Government in the Home Department shall by an order declare such area/village as a “more vulnerable area” for the purpose of the instant scheme,” the order added.

As per the order, the number of members in each VDG will not be more than 15 in number. The order also said that only those persons who are in possession of a valid arms licence and to whom weapons have been provided by the J&K Police, determined by the District Magistrate or Senior Superintendent of Police, will be included in these defence groups. Besides that, persons in possession of a valid licence and weapons or a person willing to purchase weapons on their own will be included in these groups.

As per Government, these groups will be headed by a retired officer of the Army, CPMF or J&K Police. The administration has also set a monthly stipend of ₹ 4500 and 4000 for the Village Defence Guards.

“Each Village Defence Group shall function under the supervision and direction of SP/SSP of the concerned District,” reads the order.

Notably, one category of the VDG has also been authorized to make use of the police wireless facilities for passing and receiving messages.

As per the order, The Village Defence Guards Scheme is intended to inculcate an attitude of self protection in security matters amongst the local population and also to supplement the ongoing efforts of the security forces in dealing with the acts of subversion and trans-border movement.

“It is a manifestation of the will of the people to actively and voluntarily participate in the efforts to thwart the nefarious designs of the anti-national elements and to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of the nation,” the order observed.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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