The government on June 28, 2016 informed the state legislature that, right now, 27924 “volunteers” are serving in 4248 VDCs across the state. They do not take any remuneration as their engagement is voluntary. The government also said that police have registered 221 cases against them including 23 murders, seven rapes, 15 cases of rioting, three cases under NDPS and 169 other cases. Of them 205 cases have been charge-sheeted, so far. Four cases in which inquest proceedings were underway, three have been closed as suicide deaths and one an accident. The government said that given the prevailing security situation, the VDC set up is not being disbanded. Instead, it is being improved.
At the same time, the government tabled the main policy document that led to the setting up of VDC. The document was implemented under the government order Home-293 of 1995 on September 30, 1995 with effect from October 1, 1995. In the larger public interest, Kashmir Life is publishing the 1995 policy document.
VILLAGE DEFENCE GROUP SCHEME
- The active participation of the local population in the security of their villages and habitation, along the borders in Jammu division, as well as important installations in the vicinity, was successfully tried during conflicts with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971. These Village Defense Groups supplemented efforts of the security forces and helped, in checking trans-border movement etc. during this period. For this purpose, the State Police had issued over 2,500 (.303) rifles along with ammunition to the villagers, most of them ex-servicemen, who were proficient in handling of the weapons and were prepared to work voluntarily for the defense and security of their homes and hearths. Most of these weapons have either been withdrawn or have now become unserviceable.
2. In the present security scenario prevailing, the Kashmir Valley, the district of Doda as well as certain hill regions of Kathua and Udhampur districts of Jammu division are affected by militant activities, inspired and supported from across the borders. In addition to this, frequent trans-border movement is taking place in the plain areas of Kathua and Jammu districts, especially between river Ravi in the East and Munnawar Tawi in the West. There are also incidents of acts of sabotage in this border belt, especially targeting the infrastructural facilities.
There is, therefore, a need to revive the Village Defense Groups, both on the borders of Jammu and Kathua districts, as was done in 1965 and 1971, as also in Doda district and the depth areas of Kathua and Udhampur districts. It is with this scheme being put into operation.
3. The aim of the Village Defense Group Scheme is to organize a small group, of volunteer armed civilians, in the identified villages along the borders as well as in depth areas of Jammu division. This is being done with a view to ensure the safety and security of such villages, infrastructural installations in and around them and to check the trans-border movement.
4. The Scheme will cover Kathua Jammu, Udhampur and Doda districts of Jammu division in the first phase. Later, it would be extended to the remaining two districts of Jammu division, viz, Rajouri and Poonch, as well as Kashmir Valley.
The district wise number of the villages, as identified by the Deputy Commissioners and the Superintendents of Police, is given below .:-
(a) KATHUA DISTRICT: There are 587 villages in Kathua district. Out of these, 130 border villages and 30 interior villages are required to be given weapons.
(b) JAMMU DISTRICT: Out of 1224 villages, 350 border villages would be covered under the Scheme.
(c) UDHAMPUR DISTRICT: 50 villages, in the interior areas of Dudoo-Basat-Garh, Gool Gulab-Garh and Sungri-Chasana areas would be brought under this Scheme.
(d) DODA DISTRICT: 100 villages. Due to peculiar and complex situation in Doda District, a general provision has been made, without actual identification. Areas to be covered under the Scheme will be identified by the Deputy Commissioner, Doda, Dy Inspector General of Police, Udhampur-Doda and Senior Supdt. of Police, Doda, in consultation with the Delta Force Commander.
The total number of villages, which are being covered under this Scheme, is 660.
- Core of the Scheme would comprise of a group of 10 to 15 armed civilians in each village, consisting of the following categories:- ( a) Those to whom weapons have been provided by the State Police. At an average volunteers in one village would be given five (.303) rifles with 100 rounds each, through District Superintendents of Police. The volunteers and number of such weapons, to be allotted in a particular village, would be determined by District Magistrate / Senior Superintendent of Police concerned, keeping in view the credential of the volunteers, population of the village, its location and security requiremen. (b) Persons processing weapons with valid licenses, and (c) Persons willing to purchase weapons on their own and found eligible to be given licenses by the respective District Magistrates.
- The members of this group would work on voluntary basis. The selection would be made carefully by the district administration, from amongst the ex-servicemen and ex-policemen, available in the village and able bodied young men, who have proficiency in handling of weapons and are prepared to contribute their mite towards the welfare of the community and security of the village. Each of the Village Defense Group would be headed by a retired officer of the Army / CPMF / State Police. He would be issued with a higher category of Weapon and would also be appointed, and given Powers of Special Police Officer (SPO). These SPO’s would be paid an honorarium of Rs. 1,500/-per month .
COMMAND AND CONTROL
- As already mentioned, the Village Defense Groups would function under the supervision of the SPOs. Village Chowkidar and Lumberdar would be constructed to assist the SPO and his volunteers in carrying out their duties. Each SPO would conduct night and day patrolling in a systematic manner. For this purpose, they may also seek the assistance of the local villagers who would be, duty bound to provide assistance to help to the SPOs. The District Magistrates should invoke the necessary legal provisions in this regard. The Village Defense Groups are also charged with the responsibility of protecting community installations and infrastructure facilities within the defined areas of their villages.
- The SPOs would function under the overall supervision of respective Tehsildars and SHO’s. Instructions in this behalf would be issued by the respective District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police. The SPOs are also authorized to make use of the police wireless facilities for passing and receiving messages, having a bearing on their charter of duties.
- The District Magistrates would be responsible for dove-tailing the Village Defense Groups with the existing deployment of the security forces, both on the border as well as in the depth areas, in consultation with the Security Force Commanders. This would ensure optimum utilization of manpower and the weapons.
- SELECTION OF VILLAGES The border villages of Jammu and Kathua districts stand already identified. The selection of depth villages in Kathua, Udhampur and Doda districts would be made carefully, taking into consideration the threat of the militants, location of the security forces in the nearby vicinity, as well as the capacity and the willingness of the villagers to organize themselves against the militants. It may be fruitful if the identified villages are not -isolated and- instead, a group of such villages is taken as a unit, which would be in a position to support each ‘other at the time of need and convert the entire segment into a defended locality. Such defended localities should, preferably, be near a security forces unit.
- The best for of defense is self defense. The Village Defense Group Scheme is not only meant to be an exercise inculcating an. attitude of self-help in security matters amongst the local population. The aim is also to supplement the ongoing efforts of the security forces in dealing with the militancy, acts of subversion and trans-border movements. Above all, it is a manifestation of the will of the people to actively participate in the efforts to thwart the threat being posed to the national security and integrity.
The identification of the men comprising these groups, support to them and the level of their motivation, would be of utmost importance. In the ultimate analysis, the success of this Scheme would depend on the quality of the men who would form these Groups and the will behind these men.