3,751 VDCs active in J&K, 49 found misusing weapons

Bilal Handoo

SRINAGAR

On July 7, 2011, Nazir Hussain Shah of Dhangri area of Rajouri district lodged a written report in his nearby police station. The report says Nazir’s daughter, who was then studying in Class 11, used to go for tuition in her school during summer vacations. One day she informed her father that one village defence committee member (VDC), Harish Singh living near her school often “tease” her and intended to develop “illicit” relation with her.

When Nazir told Singh not to tease her daughter, the VDC member fired upon her with an intention to shut her mouth forever. Later FIR was lodged and subsequently case was closed after filing a challan.

In another incident, a 13-year-old girl Chamili, daughter of Charman Lal of Dalheri area of district Rajouri had gone to her maternal uncle’s home along with her mother on Feb 20, 2002. In the night hours, somebody knocked at the door. The family thought militants were at their doorstep. But to their surprise, it turned out to be VDC member, Prem Nath, who barged into their home and started firing. This resulted in the death of Chamili on the spot.

In this case, a challan was filed and now the case is subjudice in JMC Budhal.

VDC members during training session in Jammu
VDC members during training session in Jammu

These aren’t handful violations committed by VDC members under the grab of guns. Official details claim 49 cases have been received till date regarding misuse of weapons by VDC members.

“In this regard, FIRs have been registered and investigation has been conducted,” the official details reveal.

In the Kishtwar incident this year, where the tentative loss of property is assessed at Rs 13.86 crore (approx.), the government furnished details claim that 02 cases involving misuse of weapons by the VDC members have been registered in district Kishtwar and investigations is on.

“The role of VDC is being looked into,” the state chief minister, Omar Abdullah told J&K Assembly on Tuesday. “We will make them more accountable.”

At present, 3,751 VDC members are active in 12 districts of Jammu and Kashmir. Doda tops the list with 864 VDC members followed by Rajouri, 683; Reasi, 626; Ramban, 367; Udhampur, 331; Kathua, 305; Samba, 202; Jammu, 195; Poonch, 126; Kishtwar, 40; Kargil, 07 and  Leh, 05.

Interestingly, the concept of VDC was evolved in 1995 for organizing a small group of volunteer armed civilian in the villages across Jammu division. The purpose was to provide security to these villages, infrastructural installations in and around them and to check the trans-border movement.

Apart from providing arms to VDCs, the district magistrates since 2009 have issued 133,894 arms licenses to civilian/army/security personnel for self-protection in 22 districts of J&K state, the official details reveal. During the same time, the home department has issued 28 licenses for the same purpose.

23,485 arms licenses have been given to people in Doda district, while in Srinagar 19,944 persons are armed with such licenses.

In the recent stone pelting incidents during night hours in district Doda, one VDC member, Sansar Singh was found involved in firing incident. This latest incident further put the role of VDCs under scanner, apart from their alleged role in fanning out Kishtwar violence.

“I have been applying for a license of a pistol for last five years, but I have been denied the same even being an MLA,” Er Rasheed said in his address in J&K Assembly on Tuesday. “But the government has no problem to allot guns to VDCs who have been found misusing the same.”

As the pressure is mounting on government over VDC issue, official sources maintain that given the security situation in the state and the role played by VDCs, “it may not be advisable to disband them at this stage”.

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