CRPF men arrive in Rajouri’s Dangri; people seek better rifles for Village Defence Committees

There is growing pressure from locals and the BJP on the L-G administration to revive Village Defence Committees, first constituted in 1995

Updated - January 06, 2023 01:59 am IST

Published - January 06, 2023 12:59 am IST - JAMMU

CRPF troops conduct ‘Area Combing Operation’ in Dhangri village of Rajouri in J&K.

CRPF troops conduct ‘Area Combing Operation’ in Dhangri village of Rajouri in J&K. | Photo Credit: PTI

Deployment of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel started in Rajouri’s Upper Dangri on Thursday amid growing pressure by the BJP on the Lieutenant Governor’s administration to arm members of the Village Defence Committees (VDCs) with automatic rifles, in the wake of recent militant attack that left six civilians dead and 15 injured here.

One CRPF company was deployed in Rajouri’s Upper Dangri, which has porous forest cover in its vicinity. At least two armed militants came down from the forest area on January 1 and killed six people, including two minors, in twin attacks.  

“We demanded security and the Lieutenant Governor met our security-related demands within days. We thank the L-G and the Centre for this quick action,” Dhiraj Sharma, sarpanch of Dangri area, said.

Official sources suggest that 18 CRPF companies - over 1,800 personnel - are likely to be deployed to strengthen the anti-militancy grid and provide security cover to vulnerable Hindu pockets in the Pir Panjal valley, comprising Poonch and Rajouri districts. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which has been monitoring the situation since the January 1 attack, had approved deployment of additional CRPF personnel in the region.

The killing continued to spark protests in the Jammu province. A shutdown was observed in Mendhar town in Poonch.

Meanwhile, there is growing pressure from locals and the BJP on the L-G administration to revive VDCs, constituted in 1995 in 10 districts of the Jammu region, to fight militants in far-off places. Around 26,567 locals were recruited into them.

In fact, BJP State president Ravinder Raina recently made L-G Manoj Sinha meet Bal Krishan, a VDC member from Upper Dangri who retaliated to militants’ fire on January 1 this year. Director-General of Police Dilbag Singh, who met protesting locals, also promised “to strengthen VDCs” in the Pir Panjal valley.

Sources said the L-G administration is mulling to provide automatic rifles, SLRs (self-loading rifles) or INSAS guns instead of present .303 rifles, to VDC members.

The Centre is likely to rename VDCs as Village Defence Groups. The previous regimes in J&K had started the process to disarm these VDCs, which faced criticism. According to official figures, VDC members faced around 160 cases related to several crimes, which include kidnapping and rape in the past.

Meanwhile, former J&K Chief Minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti said moves to provide automatic rifles to VDCs “will not help in the long run”. “The Dangri attack and the move to provide SLRs to VDCs deflate the claim of the BJP and the L-G administration that normalcy has returned to J&K. Arming people with weapons will only serve the BJP’s agenda of creating an atmosphere of fear, suspicion and hatred. It will pit one community against the other,” Ms. Mufti said.

She said the latest moves only show that the BJP has failed in controlling the situation. “J&K needed a political solution and could not be resolved militarily. No power on earth can win a war against its own people,” she added.

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