Admn withdraws order, allows VDC members to continue

Only incapacitated & those with bad record to be removed
VDCs to be further strengthened, trained
Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Dec 30: Authorities have withdrawn their decision to take back weapons from the Village Defence Committee (VDC) members, who had turned 60, which had resulted into widespread resentment among the minorities especially in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts, where the militancy had shown some signs of revival especially after the killing of BJP leader Anil Parihar and his brother Ajit Parihar.
Governor Satya Pal Malik is reported to have directed the authorities to stop withdrawal of weapons excepting from those, who were incapacitated or have criminal record.
Official sources said the authorities have revised their direction for withdrawal of weapons from all those VDC members, who had turned 60, and directed that the weapons should be taken back from only those members, who were incapacitated or have criminal record and not from all.
“All VDC members of 60 years or above, who have good record and can fight the militancy, would continue to hold the weapons,” sources said.
Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Dr Jitendra Singh said the Governor told him that weapons would be withdrawn only from the incapacitated members and rest of the VDCs members, irrespective of their age, would continue to hold guns to fight militancy.
Instead, he added, the Government has decided to further strengthen the VDCs.
Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh told the Excelsior that the weapons are being withdrawn only from the VDC members, who were sick or have criminal record.
Excelsior had exclusively reported the decision to withdraw weapons from the VDC members, who had turned 60, leading to panic among the minorities in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts, where the people had braved militancy for nearly three decades with help of the VDCs and didn’t migrate.
Though local police authorities had assured that weapons would be given to family members or immediate family members of the elderly citizens, this didn’t satisfy the people and number of representatives of different organizations had reached Jammu, demanding status quo.
“The Government has agreed to the status quo. Now, the weapons will remain with the VDC members barring exceptional cases where the gun holders have criminal record or have turned incapacitated and can’t fight the militants, sources pointed out.
Instead, they said, the Government has decided to strengthen the VDCs by holding regular training sessions with them, checking their weapons whether they were in working conditions or not, replace the weapons which have been rendered useless and provide all other possible assistance to them.
This is in recognition to the role rendered by the VDC members during nearly three decades of militancy in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts during which they not only protected the habitations of minorities but also eliminated militants during the encounters or passed on specific information about movement of the militants to the security forces.
Even, the sources said, police could recruit new VDC members, wherever they feel their requirement especially in the wake of reports about attempts to revive militancy to some extent in Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban districts
In November, militants had gunned down senior BJP leader Anil Parihar and his brother Ajit Parihar in the heart of Kishtwar town. All main accused involved in the killings haven’t been arrested so far. About half a dozen militants and their Over Ground Workers besides a top agent of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan have recently been arrested by Kishtwar police.
In Doda district also, there have been reports of radicalization of youth.
The VDCs were also set up in the nineties in Rajouri and Poonch districts besides border districts of Samba and Kathua but their number was very less as compared to the VDCs working in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts.
Sources expressed confidence that the Government’s latest directive will cool down the tempers, which were running high among the minorities, who were worried that withdrawal of guns from some of the VDC members might give the militants a chance to strike in their villages.