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Hate campaign against Village Defence Committees makes Jammu Hindus insecure

Author: Hari Om
Publication: Vijayvaani.com
Date: September 7, 2013
URL: http://www.vijayvaani.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?aid=2938

Secessionist and communal violence gripped the Kashmir Valley in the late 1980s. Within a short span of two years, Pakistan-sponsored highly indoctrinated terrorists, including mercenaries drawn from countries like the restive and war-torn Afghanistan, in collaboration with Kashmir-based separatists, created a situation that forced the miniscule minority of Kashmiri Hindus and thousands of Sikhs to quit their age-old habitat and become refugees in their own motherland. The process of religious cleansing in Kashmir was almost complete by April 1990. The Pakistani terrorists and their handful of supporters in the Valley like Syed Ali Shah Geelani  succeeded in cleansing the Valley of almost all the Hindus because the Union Government watched the over two-year-long orgy of death and destruction in Kashmir as a silent spectator.

Encouraged by the indifferent response of New Delhi towards what they did to rid the Valley of the minority community, radical Islamists turned their attention towards the Hindus who remained in the hilly, mountainous and inaccessible areas of Jammu province adjoining Kashmir to create a Kashmir-like situation. Their immediate targets were the erstwhile Doda district housing nearly 55 per cent Muslims and 45 per cent Hindus; Poonch district housing nearly 90 per cent Muslims and 10 per cent non-Muslims, including Hindus and Sikhs; and Rajouri district housing approximately 60 per cent Muslims and 40 per cent Hindus.

Within no time, they unleashed a reign of terror in these far-flung areas. They mercilessly butchered Hindus, including hapless women and children, at regular intervals in one village after the other. They used to pull out Hindus out of buses and shoot them dead. So barbarous had they become that would not spare even Hindus’ funeral processions and wedding ceremonies. Radical Islamists and terrorists from Pakistan and other countries could accomplish their nefarious designs because the Army and paramilitary forces had by then not secured these areas owing to the nature of the terrain. 

Indeed, it was just impossible for them to provide security to each and every individual and house in the sparsely populated and difficult mountainous areas. As a result, radical Islamists armed with deadly weapons roamed freely and conducted anti-India and anti-minority activities with utmost ease. Between 1990 and 1994, the hilly and mountainous areas in the erstwhile Doda district and Poonch and Rajouri districts witnessed several deadly attacks on the minority community.

The heart-rending memories of terrorist attacks in Chapnari, Prem Nagar, Barashalla, Desa and Kulhand in the erstwhile Doda district of which Kishtwar was also part and Prankot Dhaki in Reasi in Udhampur district continue to linger in the minds of the minority community even today. These and several other gory incidents – apart from bomb blasts at public places and attacks on soft targets – had left hundreds of members of the minority community dead and hundreds wounded. The situation was so grave that there was the possibility of many Hindu families migrating from the areas where the barbarians had established their stranglehold.

It was under these circumstances that the BJP at the State and Central level took up the issue with Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao and Home Minister SB Chavan and demanded establishment of Village Defence Committees (VDCs) in the terrorist and separatist-infested areas of Jammu province. The Governor of Jammu & Kashmir General KV Krishna Rao, who played a remarkable role in combating militancy, did not lag behind. He endorsed the demand of the BJP. In fact, the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, Governor Rao and the BJP worked in complete unison in the larger national interest. The Union Government appreciated the demand to set up VDCs in far-flung villages where the terrorists were on a slaughtering spree, not sparing even women and children.

The immediate fallout of the commendable decision was the engagement of civilians for “their self-protection”. They were provided arms. It was their duty to take on and fight terrorists till the time the Army or paramilitary could reach and eliminate the barbarous attackers. And whenever the VDCs confronted terrorists, they not only saved members of their own community but also their fellow villagers belonging to the majority community.

It needs to be underlined that when the VDCs were created, only members of the minority community came forward to join them. This was only natural as it was the minority community that was the target of radical Islamists. Members of the majority community also joined the VDCs in due course of time. They were reluctant to join the counter-insurgency groups comprising young civilians for two specific reasons. They were of the view that their joining the VDCs would provoke terrorists to attack and eliminate them as well in the manner they had been butchering members of the minority community. The induction of civilian Hindus in the counter-insurgency panels had been taken by communal elements to mean a move of the government to communalise the security grid.

Right now, about 23,690 Special Police Officers (SPOs) and 28,865 able-bodied civilians are working with the VDCs in Jammu & Kashmir. In the Kashmir Valley, nearly 8,424 SPOs are working with the state police discharging various duties. As for Jammu province, 15,269 youth have been working as SPOs. There are 4,155 SPOs and 4,866 VDC members in Doda district, 5,861 VDC members and 948 SPOs in Reasi district and 5,818 VDC members and 1,411 SPOs in Rajouri district. All the VDCs are playing an important role in combating militancy and not allowing the extremists to play their nefarious games in the hilly and mountainous areas of Jammu province.

The splendid role the VDCs have been playing since their inception has never been appreciated by the anti-India elements and Kashmiri leaders of all varieties, separatist and “mainstream” leaders included. They have been urging the government to disband the institution of VDCs, particularly since 2002, when the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Congress and People’s Democratic Front (PDF) formed a coalition government in the state.

However, after the August 9 pre-planned and well-executed communal assault in the sensitive Kishtwar town and adjoining areas, which resulted in two deaths on the festival of Eid and caused loss to the minority community on an unprecedented scale, “mainstream” Kashmiri leaders belonging to the Congress, National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party and separatist outfits heightened their hate-VDCs campaign.

Separatists like Syed Ali Shah Geelani have been holding the VDCs responsible for what happened at Kishtwar on August 9, completely overlooking the fact that many among those who had gathered to offer Eid prayers carried with them arms, petrol bottles, lathis, Pakistani flags and pictures of death row terrorists like Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat, and called for jihad. On the other hand, Kashmiri leaders belonging to the Congress, NC and PDP have been putting forth the same demand, saying the “VDCs have lost the people’s confidence”.

Both the separatists and the NC, Congress and PDP leaders are conducting themselves as they did on and after July 18, 2013, when the state police and Border Security Force (BSF) personnel opened fire on the unruly mob that had lain siege to a BSF camp at Dharam in Ramban district to loot arms and ammunition.

There is a general consensus that Pakistan and terror outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) have mastermind the hate-VDCs campaign. In fact, on August 17 and 19, representatives of the minority community in Kishtwar told a group of ministers led by Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and All-Party Delegation lead by Medical Education Minister Taj Mohi-ud-Din that the ongoing vilification campaign against the VDCs is the brainchild of Pakistan and outfits like LeT and warned the authorities that any move on their part to disband or disarm the VDCs would be fraught with dangerous ramifications.

Reports emanating from Kishtwar and other affected areas clearly suggest that the ongoing misinformation and vilification campaign against VDCs, coupled with a loud clamour that the counter-insurgency panels be disbanded, has caused insecurity among members of the minority community. And if one goes by credible and well-placed sources, then one can even say that the immediate fallout of the decision to disband the VDCs will be the wholesale migration of the minority community. If that happens, it will be construed as an outstanding victory of the anti-national forces. Indeed, the fear and apprehensions of the minority community are genuine.
 
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