Village Defence Committees

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    • 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 JK Village Defence Committee?

    • The VDCs were first formed in the erstwhile Doda district (now Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban districts) in mid 1990s as a force multiplier against militant attacks. 
    • The VDCs have now been renamed as Village Defence Guards (VDG). Like a VDC member, each VDG will be provided a gun and 100 rounds of ammunition.

    How are 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 a monthly remuneration. The SPOs, the lowest rank in the J&K Police, used to be retired army, para military or police personnel.

    Composition of 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 an average, at least five of them were provided .303 rifles and 100 rounds each, through the district Superintendent of Police.

    Need to set up VDCs

    • The idea was taken from the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars, when the government armed ex-servicemen and abled-bodied youth in villages along the border to guard against infiltration of Pakistani spies.
    • The militancy that began in Kashmir in the early 1990s had spread to the adjoining Doda district by mid 1990s. 
    • 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 so as to stop this exodus, coming after Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee the state in the early 1990s.
    • Later, the scheme was expanded to other areas of the Jammu division as militants extended their activities to Udhampur, Reasi, Rajouri, Poonch, Kathua and Samba districts.

     Controversies

    • Along with the successes, the VDCs also faced allegations of human rights violations and other crimes, including murder, rape and extortions.
    • 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.

    Source: IE