PDP senior minister says VDCs should be disbanded

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Differences over disbanding of controversial Village Defence Committees (VDC) surfaced in Jammu and Kashmir government as PDP today said the force created to fight militancy should be disbanded as it had served its purpose, while BJP has favoured its continuation.

“It (the continuance of VDCs) needs to be reviewed and where there is peace, there is no need.

“It (VDC system) was established during past when the situation was not normal. Now is the time to disband them,” PDP leader and Minister for Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD) Chowdhary Zulfiqar Ali told on the sidelines of a function here.

The minister was responding to a question over the demands by opposition National Conference (NC) and separatist groups for disbanding the VDCs in the wake of killings of three persons, including a minor, in a week’s time in Rajouri district of Jammu region by two members of these village-level committees

Ali said he would take up the issue with Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who is currently in Delhi undergoing treatment after he developed health complications some days ago.

“The Chief Minister is out of station and whenever he will come back, we will take it up,” he said.

“Recently, two incidents happened in my area and they are very unfortunate where the government weapons have been used for killing somebody which should not have happened,” said Ali, who represents Darhal constituency of Rajouri district.

“We are very clear that the VDCs needs to be reviewed and they are to be disbanded where the gun is used against the civilians,” the PDP leader said.

Ali’s assertions are contrary to the stand taken by PDP’s ally BJP which has ruled out the possibility of disbanding the VDCs.

“These (disbanding of VDCs) are irrelevant demands. If an army jawan or a policeman does something bad, will army or police be disbanded?” BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh has said.

Singh said the VDCs have played a big role in stamping out militancy and defending population in remote and rural areas of the state.

“There have been some incidents by some VDC members and police is looking into it. The law will take its course,” he said.

The demands by NC and other mainstream groups as well as separatist groups for disbanding the VDCs grew louder after a VDC member Mushtaq Ahmed had shot dead Shamima Akhter and her three-year-old son Tohid from his rifle in village Samote of Budhal tehsil in Rajouri district.

Earlier, on December 19, another VDC member Kewal Sharma had allegedly shot dead a National Conference (NC) leader Ishtiyaq Ahmed over some altercation in Potha village of Kalakote tehsil in Rajouri district.

VDCs were set up by police by arming volunteers to counter heavily armed terrorists in 1992-93. There are about 5,000 sanctioned VDCs in the state.

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