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With antiquated weapons, they fight hitech terrorists

With antiquated weapons, they fight hitech terrorists

Author: Dinesh Manhotra
Publication: The Daily Excelsior
Date: November 30, 2001

With 'antiquated' 303 rifles on their shoulders, three youth in their teens, were patrolling the Khalani-Guha road which has been considered as IED prone. Even security personnels do not dare to move on this track but these youth, without fear on their faces, have been manning the track.

Like other members of the Village Defence Committees (VDCs), these youths were not only committed to frustrate evil designs of the terrorists but also providing security to the inhabitants of this violence plagued areas.

"Security of our family and dignity totally depends upon these VDCs members", said Sadhu Ram, resident of Hamble while lavishing all praise on VDCs members for frustrating terrorists' design. Several attempts were made by militants to attack our village, he said, adding that these attempts were frustrated by VDC members.

Braving all odds, these VDC members have been valiantly fighting terrorism in the entire Doda district. But they are not only fighting militants they also have to confront with apathetic and indifferent attitude of the authorities.

Notwithstanding claims of the authorities, these VDCs members are still fighting with terrorists with their 'out-dated' weapons. "Terrorists are equipped with sophisticated weapons like AK 56 and sniffer rifles but we are still fighting with 303 rifles that too with very small quantity of ammunition at our disposal", said Raghunandan Singh, a VDC member of village Sarthal of Kishtwar tehsil. Not only denying sophisticated arms, they are even discriminated by the local administration in other spheres also. With applications in their files kith and kin of martyr, VDC members were seen moving in the tehsil headquarters at Kishtwar.

Though VDC members in this district have valiantly repulsed terrorists attack a number of times and even large number of VDC members have sacrificed their lives but their kith and kin are still moving from pillar to post for their genuine and just rights.

On November 20, 2000 militants attacked a village Khala of Kishtwar tehsil. One Satish Kumar who was Village Defence Committee member attained martyrdom but didn't allow militants to enter his village. Terrorists wanted to execute massacre of minority community but their design was frustrated by Satish Kumar who sacrificed his life while fighting with terrorists.

Though her husband had saved lives of number of people by sacrificing his life but Sanjogeeta, widow of the martyr has not been provided job under SRO 43.

Similar is the story of Rani Devi, widow of VDC member Bansi Lal who had attained martyrdom while fighting with terrorists at village Sarood on October 13 this year. Bansi Lal along with Banori Lal, SPO repulsed terrorists attack on village. Both of them have sacrificed their lives but their widows namely Rani Devi and Santosh Devi have yet not been provided job under SRO 43.

Here is story of another VDC member Master Seva Ram, who alone fought bravely with a group of five terrorists and frustrated their designs of killing Hindus. Though, Master Seva Ram attained martyrdom but he saved life of about 30 Hindus. On September 13, 1994, terrorists hijacked a bus which was going to Kishtwar from Thakuray. Master Seva Ram was also traveling in the bus. As the militants started separating Hindus from other passengers, Master Seva Ram, without wasting any time, bounced on one of the militants and snatched rifle from him and killed him. Though, he was killed by terrorists but he had saved lives of innocent people. Authorities promised to recommend Master Seva Ram for bravery award but the proposal is still in pipe line. What to say of bravery award even his widow Pusha Thakur has not yet got Government job which is her legal right. Family's miseries do not stop here, terrorists later killed Master Seva Ram's elder brother Tej Ram and his brother-in-law.

With two daughters and two sons, widow of martyr Master Seva Ram, Pusha Thakur later migrated to Kishtwar for protecting dignity of her family.

There are number of cases of such VDC members who have sacrificed their lives while fighting with terrorists but there families are facing apathy of the administration.

Spread over an area of 11,961 square kilometers with a population of about six and half lakh, Doda district comprises of four sub-divisions, 7 tehsils and 14 blocks. There are 651 villages in the entire Doda district. Most of these villages located on higher peaks of the mountains so it is difficult rather impossible for the authorities to provide security to each village. As militants resorted to selective killings of minorities, living in these far-flung villages, VDCs were constituted to protect these hamlets. There are total 1073 VDCs which have been constituted in the Doda comprising 8766 members.

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