Village Destabilizing Culture


Contrary to a general belief that attacks on Hindus were contained by VDCs, the fact is the attacks increased manifold after the VDCs were set up. The second major massacre took place on January 5, 1996 at Barshalla in Kishtwar when 15 Hindus – ten from a single family, were killed. Though the motive were economical – it was a battle over bovine trade in Thathri and militants carried out the massacre. The massacre at Kalmadi (June 8, 1996) and Sarwadhar (July 25, 1996) in Doda, Mahore (April 19, 1998) in Udhampur, took place after the VDCs were set up and were functioning.

In fact, some events in Chenab Valley’s history are attributed to the VDCs. The worst massacre of Chapnari (June 19, 1998) in Doda is one such instance in which militants attacked a marriage party and killed 26 persons. The slain included three brothers, two of whom were bridegrooms.

Locals believed it to be retaliation to a March 17, 1998 incident that involved some Muslims (of Kothi Pain village) witnessing a VDC member Suresh Kumar (of Pamassa village in Thathri) and his friend, molesting a Gujjar lady. While his accomplice fled, Suresh was caught and beaten to hilt. While he was shifted to the hospital, news of his killing (he died the next afternoon) spread like wild fire. It triggered communal tensions in the region during which four persons of Karara (two brothers Abdul Gani Malik and Gulam Hassan Malik, Gulam Mustafa and Abdul Qayoum) were allegedly beaten to death and thrown into Chenab. Their bodies were fished out after four days over 150 Kms away.

Under intense pressure from New Delhi, police arrested a young boy and accused him of being the mastermind of the massacre. During the trial, he was set free honourably by the court with severe strictures being passed against the prosecution.

Even the migration peaked after the VDCs started functioning. By the summer of 1998, the migrant families from Doda living in Jammu had crossed 1100 and it was going on.

In October 2006, there was a crisis in the making at the border of Bhaderwah and Chamba (Himachal).Then, a group of 64 villagers from Sawara in Gundoh belt – the home belt of former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, crossed the unmanned inter-state mountain border and started living as migrants in Nodhal Dhar. Comprising 30-children, 14 woman and two men, the government at Shimla started treating them as migrants.

It took two days for the administration in Doda to understand that the ‘migrants’ are actually the families of five VDC members who were disarmed by the police for a cold blooded murder. In order to save their skin, they chose to flee. The five VDC men and an SPO who was part of the escort of a local BJP leader killed Farooq Ahmad without any reason. As the investigations zeroed in on VDC men, the local BJP leaders – according to officials who investigated the brutal murder, hatched the plan of sending the families to Himachal and create a new crisis and divert the attention.

At the same time, however, some of the VDCs did fight to the level they were trained and required. In one incident somewhere in Dacchan, a group of eight VDC men continued exchanging fire with militants for the whole night till they all were neutralized.

There were many individuals who got publicity for being inspirational to VDCs. These included a Gujjar girl Jameela of Duga village who was accredited for killing a top militant.

Given the limitations of training – sometimes a week, and weapon management – by and larger they initially got vintage 3.3 rifle, these VDCs were never a fighting force. At one point of time, when the state lacked enough of numbers to deploy in a vast region, creation of VDCs was a visible force multiplier. Bounded by the Pir Panchal range on the north and Seoj Dhar on the south, the erstwhile Doda borders Islamabad in Kashmir in the north and Udhampur and Kuthua of Jammu region in the south-west. It has contiguous borders with Chamb of Himachal and Kargil of the Ladakh region as well. A maze of crisscross ridges, thick forests, dense vegetation, Chenab Valley lives beyond the Chenab banks.

As the security forces were deployed in the region, the role of the VDCs and SPOs was reduced to those


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