The recent killings allegedly perpetrated by Village Defence Committee (VDC) members have triggered calls for the shutdown of VDCs from opposition parties as well as separatists.
“The ruthless killing of an innocent child and her mother by the VDC is the worst form of state terrorism,” Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Geelani said, calling for disbanding of the “unlawful” force.
Geelani was referring to the gunning down of a woman and her four-year-old son allegedly by a VDC member in Rajouri district of Jammu on Thursday. Five days earlier, a 26-year-old National Conference activist was killed allegedly by a VDC member in Kalakote area.
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Threatening to launch a mass agitation against VDCs, the opposition National Conference accused the PDP-BJP government of using the force to “exert a repressive, extra-judicial influence on the people”. “Anger is brewing due to these murders and the PDP-BJP’s refusal to acknowledge this anger is shocking,” NC spokesperson Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi said.
Protests have already begun over the issue. JKLF chairman Yasin Malik was detained in Srinagar on Friday during a protest rally against the VDCs. Clashes took place in Maisuma and adjoining Gawkadal after Friday prayers against the killings and in favour of disbanding the VDCs.
Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, however, said that the VDCs would continue. “One man can be wrong but not all VDCs. VDC members have laid down their lives while fighting militancy. They will continue to do so,” Singh said.
The two VDC members allegedly involved in last week’s killings have been arrested and their guns seized, but the event has sparked a fresh debate over the existence of such committees, especially with the decline in incidents of terror.
The Hurriyat has called for a statewide bandh on Saturday, while CPM MLA M Y Tarigami has demanded immediate disbanding of VDCs.
Describing the incidents as isolated criminal activity by two people who happened to be VDC members, Rajouri SSP Rajeshwar Singh said they would carry out verification of all VDC members in the border district.