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Village Defence Committees

Current Affairs

  • Jammu and Kashmir L-G Manoj Sinha recently said Village Defence Guards would be set up in the UT.
  • The scheme to set up VDGs in vulnerable areas of J&K was approved by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.

What is a Village Defence Committee (VDC)?

  • The VDCs were first formed in the erstwhile Doda district (now Kishtwar, Doda, and Ramban districts) in the mid-1990s as a force multiplier against militant attacks.
  • Then Jammu and Kashmir’s administrations decided to provide residents of remote hilly villages with weapons and give them arms training to defend themselves.

Need to set up Village Defence Committees (VDCs):-

  • The militancy that began in Kashmir in the early 1990s had spread to the adjoining Doda district by the mid-1990s.
  • The demand for arming the civilian population first rose after the massacre of 13 people in Kishtwar in 1993.
  • As the killings increased, prompting the migration of Hindus from villages to nearby towns, the Home Ministry in 1995 decided to set up the VDCs.

Composition of Village Defence Committees (VDCs):-

  • A minimum of 10-15 ex-servicemen, ex-policemen, and able-bodied local youth were enrolled in each VDC on a voluntary basis.
  • On average, at least five of them were provided .303 rifles and 100 rounds each, through the district Superintendent of Police.
  • The allotment of weapons could go up depending on the credentials of the volunteers, the total population of a village, and its security requirements, as assessed by the district magistrate and SSP concerned.

How are Village Defence Guards (VDGs) different from VDCs?

  • Both VDG and VDC is a group of civilians provided guns and ammunition to tackle militants in case of attack until the arrival of security forces.
  • Under the new scheme, the persons leading the VDGs will be paid Rs 4,500 per month by the government, while others will get Rs 4,000 each.
  • In the VDCs, only the Special Police Officers (SPOs) leading them were provided with a remuneration, of Rs 1,500 monthly.
  • The SPOs, the lowest rank in the J&K Police, used to be retired army, paramilitary, or police personnel.
  • The VDGs will function under the direction of the SP/SSP of the district concerned.

Controversies:-

  • Along with the successes, the VDCs also faced allegations of human rights violations and other crimes, including murder, rape and extortion.
  • In 2008, the Supreme Court directed the state government to stop supporting and providing alms to Salwa Judum (anti-Naxalite militia mobilized by the Chhattisgarh State). According to SC, the state government has no right to provide arms to a civilian and allow him to kill someone else.

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