Security Issues

Village Defence Guards (VDG): Providing reassurance and security

The revival of Village Defence Committees (VDCs), albeit under a new name, Village Defence Guards (VDG), in Jammu division’s Rajouri and Poonch districts has been met with scepticism. Skeptics question its chances of success in combating terrorism, which has resurfaced in the region after a long hiatus.

Village Defence Committees (VDCs)

  • Born in the 1990s: The VDCs, which were established in the mid-1990s to combat terrorists, had instilled a sense of security among the people.
  • Terrorist retaliation: These committees were formed with able-bodied men and ex-service personnel to retaliate whenever terrorists entered the villages.
  • Experiment results: The experiment was a success, as evidenced by a decrease in terrorist activity in the Rajouri and Poonch sectors.

Village Defence Guards (VDG)

  • Village Defence Guards (VDGs) are similar to Village Defence Committees (VDCs). The VDGs play an important role in maintaining security in rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir, providing intelligence to security forces and assisting in counter-insurgency operations.
  • The Indian government also arms and trains them.

How are VDGs created?

  • VDGs are trained by the CRPF: Though the Jammu and Kashmir police is playing a critical role in organising the VDGs into a formidable force to combat terrorists, the CRPF has been tasked with training them in the use of automatic weapons.
  • A strategy is required: These VDGs must have a pre-planned strategy for dealing with terrorists, or they will be caught off guard in the event of an attack, causing chaos.

The similar experiments in other areas

  • Manipur Village Volunteer Force (VVF): During the height of the insurgency in Manipur, the Village Volunteer Force (VVF) proved to be a valuable asset. The armed VVF personnel, who were mostly made up of surrendered militants, not only took on the militants operating in their areas, but they were also extremely helpful in gathering intelligence. These forces, however, were led by officers deputed from the CRPF and BSF as Liaison Officers and Area Organisers.
  • Juda Salwa In the Chattisgarh region, a prominent Congress leader, Mahendra Karma, established the Salwa Judum, a civilian force in Chhattisgarh to combat Maoists, in June 2005. The state government assisted in the establishment of 23 Salwa Judum camps in the districts of Bastar and Dantewada.
  • Jharkhand and Telangana have similar civilian forces: Following the initial success in apprehending the Maoists, other states such as Jharkhand and Telangana formed similar militias to combat the Maoist threat.
  • When Punjab was in the grip of militancy in the 1980s and early 1990s, certain villagers were given weapons to retaliate, and the experiment proved successful. They were courageous enough to stand up to the militants for hours and successfully repel their attacks. Some of them, including women, were awarded the prestigious Shaurya Chakra and Kirti Chakra for thwarting militant attacks.

Importance of reactivated VDG’s

  • Sense of Security and confidence in the villages: The reactivation of the VDGs would go a long way in instilling a sense of security and confidence in the villagers.
  • Terrorist deterrence and resistance: VDGs also serve as a deterrent to terrorists, who would face stiff resistance if they attempted to attack the villagers.
  • Aside from the fact that the VDGs are mostly ex-servicemen, their ability to fight terrorists with automatic weapons and training will be invaluable.
  • Source of Intelligence: They could also be used to gather intelligence. With the additional deployment of the CRPF, the response time for security forces to rush to trouble spots would be drastically reduced.

@the end

It would be in the best interests of the people of Poonch and Rajouri districts to strengthen the VDGs and provide them with all logistical and training support on a long-term basis as a force multiplier rather than dismantling them once normalcy has been restored. The proximity to the 120-kilometer stretch of the Line of Control along Pakistan-occupied Kashmir necessitates a permanent security blanket for all villages in the region, given Pakistan’s penchant for mischief.

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