Village defence guard member killed in shootout with militants in Jammu’s Udhampur: Police

VDG member Mohammad Shareef was fatally injured in a gun fight between the police and a group of hiding terrorists at Chochru Gala heights; VDGs are armed civilian groups set up in J&K border villages

April 28, 2024 04:11 pm | Updated 09:06 pm IST - JAMMU

Image for representation purpose only.

Image for representation purpose only. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

A member of the Village Defence Guards (VDGs) — armed civilians manning villages in border areas in Jammu and Kashmir to ward off militants attacks — was killed in an exchange of fire with militants in Jammu’s Udhampur on April 28.  

A police spokesperson said that a face-off had ensued between a police party and a group of hiding terrorists at Chochru Gala heights in Udhampur around 7.45 a.m. “One VDG member of the J&K Police was injured in the initial exchange of fire,” the spokesperson said.

The injured VDG member later succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. He has been identified as Mohammad Shareef, 48, a resident of Lower Ponar, Basantgarh, Udhampur. 

“More reinforcements have already reached the spot and the whole area has been cordoned off,” the police said.

Additional Director General of Police, Jammu, Anand Jain, said the police had received information on the movement of two or more groups of freshly infiltrated terrorists. “The police, along with VDG members, proceeded towards Chochru Gala heights for area domination. The terrorists fled deep into the forest area and were being chased by the security forces,” Mr. Jain said.

 Three terrorists are suspected to be hiding in the area.

Security forces used unmanned aerial vehicles and Army helicopters to track the hiding militants. Special forces were also air-dropped in the forest area, officials said.

VDG training

On April 26, the Army had trained VDGs in weapons handling and firing in Poonch’s Mendhar, Harni and Jaran wali Gali areas. The training came in the wake of militants killing an Army jawan’s brother in Rajouri’s Thanamandi area. 

The older Village Defence Committees (VDC) were recently revived, and renamed VDGs, after militants attacked a village in Rajouri’s Dagri area in 2023, killing seven civilians. The VDCs had originally been set up in 10 districts of the Jammu region of J&K in 1995, at the peak of militancy and attacks on members of minority communities. The decline of militancy in the region led to the disbanding of the VDCs, with its volunteer members asked to return their weapons to the local police stations. 

Official figures suggested that around 26,567 local residents had been recruited into VDCs in the Jammu region. However, the committees came under a cloud and faced scrutiny after the filing of 160 criminal cases involving VDC members.

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