Indian authorities are preparing to equip thousands of people in Kashmiri villages with automatic weapons. Earlier this month, seven civilians were killed in the valley, after which the authorities have decided to rebuild a security network of common people. The authorities have reactivated Village Defense Guards (VDG) in about 26,000 villagers, which had become inactive in the last few years. Local police chief Haseeb Mughal told Reuters news agency, “We are re-organizing the VDGs that were already there. Years of normalcy in the area had loosened up.” For this, we are reorganizing and training them. We have also given automatic rifles to some people.”
Continuous attacks on Hindus
Militants attacked in Rajouri of Jammu and Kashmir on January 1. In this incident, 4 people of minority Hindu community were killed and 7 were injured. The firing was done at three different houses. Police said that seven people of the same family, including a woman and a child, were injured in the firing in Dangri area of Rajouri. Later four of them died. All those who died were from the Hindu community.
Last year, there were frequent attacks on Hindu families living in the valley. In December, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai had told in the Rajya Sabha that nine Kashmiri Pandits had died in the three years between 2020 and 2022. Among those killed were many Kashmiri Pandits who were among the 56 employees working in the valley under the Prime Minister’s development package.
Under the Prime Minister’s development package, these 56 Kashmiri Pandits were settled in the valley and given work there. This is part of the Indian government’s efforts to bring back Kashmiri Pandit families who had fled the state in the 1990s due to the fear of terrorism. For the return of these families, 6,000 flats have been built at 19 places. However, after several killings last year, these Kashmiri Pandits are demanding to be settled somewhere outside the valley.
How right is it to give arms to people?
After the incident in Rajouri on January 1, there has been a growing concern among the officials that the militants may increase their activities outside the Kashmir Valley in the Jammu region. Due to heavy deployment, the militants are not able to carry out their activities. Due to this, the VDG network is being rebuilt.
Basant Raj Thakur, a VDG in Jammu’s Doda district, says that giving people automatic weapons instead of bolt-action rifles is the right step. Thakur said, “The way the situation is changing, they should be given more such weapons and training should also be given.” VDG security personnel also get a monthly allowance of Rs 4,000 from the local administration. However, some VDG personnel have also been facing allegations of involvement in criminal activities. That’s why there is opposition among the local leaders to reorganize them.
Former chief minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti said, “The move to hand over arms to the locals in the border districts belies the government’s claim that the situation is normal in the area.” On Friday, India’s Home Minister Amit Shah is going to visit the state where he will also meet the families of those killed in Rajouri.