Amid repeated incidents of terror attacks on the members of the minority community by Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups, the demand of reviving the virtually 'defunct' Village Defence Committees (VDCs) gained momentum to frustrate evil designs of anti-national forces.

After the gruesome killings of six persons, including two minor children, this demand has become louder because the VDC of Dangri village had earlier foiled many terrorist attacks in the past but the group was disbanded.

"Strengthening of VDCs is a must to restore shattered confidence of the people", Dheeraj Sharma Sarpanch of village Dangri told media persons. He reminded that in the past VDCs had played a very important role in containing terrorism in this belt.

Reasi Police

Responding to the demands of the locals, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha announced on Monday that ex-servicemen and VDCs will be strengthened further and the government will take more steps for them.

Director General of Police Dilbag Singh, who visited the site, also announced that VDCs will now be revived and rearmed, after some protesting leaders and locals claimed that the incidents could have been averted had the authorities not taken away the weapons of VDCs.

Rajouri terror attack
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Locals demand sophisticated weapons for VDCs

Bharat Bhushan, the vice-chairman of Municipal Council Rajouri, said that the Dangri massacre has created fear psychosis among members of the minority community.

"We demand immediate revival and strengthening of VDCs at par with VDCs in Doda and Kishtwar. The people have threatened to start mass migration from their respective villages if the administration fails to strengthen VDCs by equipping them with sophisticated weapons without further delay," he said.

He said there was a VDC in the area but police had taken away the weapons of those VDC members who were above 60 and didn't replace them with others. "Had these people been equipped with sophisticated weapons, this massacre would have been avoided? We also demand that night vigil and deployment of the army in the area should be increased," Bhushan said.

Baburam Sharma, Sarpanch Muradpur Panchayat in Rajouri demanded that the Police should immediately return all our guns which had been taken away from us and VDCs should be revived without any delay.

Nomenclature of VDCs to be changed as VDGs

Recently, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while interacting with a BJP delegation from J&K led by the party's general secretary Sunil Sharma, had assured that all the revival and strengthening of VDCs in Doda and Kishtwar with change in their nomenclature.

Called Village Defence Groups (VDGs, it was decided that each VDG would have eight to 10 members depending on the requirement and they would be paid equal remuneration every month by the government.

Reasi Police

VDCs were set up in the mid-1990s in Jammu province

The VDCs were set up in the mid-1990s with an aim to strengthen the security of people living in remote and mountainous areas of Doda, Kishtwar, Ramba, Rajouri, Reasi, Kathua, and Poonch districts of the Jammu region. Later VDCs were constituted in plains of Jammu, especially in border villages to check infiltration.

The members of these committees not only guard the identified villages along the border, but also the infrastructural installations in and around them.

Over 4100 VDCs in J&K

As per the official data, there are 4,125 VDCs in the Union Territory (UT) and the Army and Police train them from time to time in weapons-handling and intelligence-gathering skills. There are five members in a VDC and two of its members, which are called SPOs, are getting wages at the rate of Rs 18,000 per month.

Carved in the mid-1990s to combat Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, the VDCs remain indispensable even after more than two decades of their inception.

A VDC in Kulali village near Hill Kaka in Poonch where Operation "Sarp Vinash" was carried out by the Army in 2003 played a significant role in combating terrorists. The security forces had killed over 60 terrorists in the operation.