The reemergence of recurrent and abominable target killings in Jammu and Kashmir refurbishes the gloomy picture of the 1990s era. The predicament of Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus alike does not seem to end as the state witnesses a grim reversal of fate, undermining all the previous efforts at peace and reconciliation. The unfortunate turn of events has led to the rising demands reestablish the village defence committee (VDG), which served as the backbone of Hindu civil defence infrastructure in the terrorist-infested state.
Moreover, defence expert and Director General of Police (DGP) of J&K, S. P. Vaid, gives due credit to the said defence committees for guarding the Hindu folks in the region during the aftermaths of the 1990 exodus.
The VDGs, composed of local village volunteers, were first introduced in the 1990s to tackle the growing terrorist insurgencies in the state. The Indian Army facilitated the training of these VDGs and provided them with arms in an experimental move to strengthen the self-defence mechanisms of the vulnerable Hindus in the Jammu region.
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These volunteer groups played a crucial role at that time in assisting the armed forces in effectively carrying out counter-terrorism operations and vigils in their respective villages. However, these committees were later made non-functional owing to the hypocritical political vehemence of the subsequent state administrations.
Consequently, the massacre and target killings have once again started to spill the blood of innocent Hindu minorities in the region. The recurrent killings of Hindus that started with the merciless murder of Makhan Lal Bindroo on October 6, 2021, took on an ugly face of targeting Hindu workers from other states and recently culminated in the twin terror strikes in the Dangri area of Rajouri sector on January 1st and 2nd, 2023, in which seven civilians, including two children, were killed.
Thus, to curtail the never-ending tale of anguish and atrocities against Hindus in the state, the government has decided to reinstate the functioning of volunteer-driven village development committee.
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CRPF to lend a helping hand to vulnerable Hindus
The Central government has facilitated that the CRPF, along with the local police, will provide weapons and training to the village defence committee guards, or VDCs, in the Union Territory of J&K in an endeavour to tackle the deeply rooted imprints of terrorism.
As per reports, the J&K administration has started reissuing weapons to village defence guards so that they can counter terrorist attacks. However, the final contours of the training schedule, the number of participants, and the array of weapons to be provided will be decided in due course.
The preliminary move of distributing arms to villagers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri and Poonch sectors is aimed at instilling a sense of security and self-confidence among the locals. According to a senior Home Ministry official, “the CRPF would provide training to the villagers, but it is yet to be determined whether weapons would also be provided to them, and if so, whether small arms or rifles.”
Further reports claim that the village development guards have been activated along the India-Pakistan International Border (IB) in Jammu, Samba, and Kathua districts. The move of the defence forces is said to be aimed at defiling any evil movement of the enemy along the international border with Pakistan.
Further, amidst the recurrent target killings and recent Rajouri attacks, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has instructed the VDGs to remain watchful of any untoward incident, keeping in view the upcoming Republic Day celebrations. The local administration fears that terrorists might be planning to disrupt the peaceful new normal established with the scrapping of Articles 370 and 35A.
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VDGs to establish peace in J&K
The long array of events in the recent past suggests the Hindu minorities are living in fear, with people resorting to exodus owing to purported target killings. The situation in the valley is heading towards the gloomy old days as the terror outfits are carrying out sleeper cell operations to greatly hamper the reconciliation and development endeavours of the Modi government.
Ever since the recent target killings started, roughly 4,000 Kashmiri Pandits have been occupying the transit camps in different districts of the valley under the PM’s programme, as they have been agitating to be allowed to leave and return to Jammu, amidst a growing threat to their lives. The general perception is that they do not want to be the “bali ka bakra,” i.e., the sacrificial lambs for the government resettlement programmes.
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Thus, amidst the intensifying fear and understandable apprehension in the minds of Hindus, the move to facilitate self-defense groups in the form of village defence committee would go a long way in boosting the morale and security of the minorities in J&K.
Further, this temporary holding arrangement would buy some time for the government to improve its intelligence so that it can preempt the targeted killings and overcome the climate of fear. Thus, the central government can achieve its longstanding vision of establishing peace and tranquilly in the state of Jammu and Kashmir beyond the perils of terrorism.
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