VDC to counter militancy in Kashmir
24 July 2001
The Times of India
New Delhi: Minister of state for home affairs I D Swami said on Tuesday that ''one of the ways to counter terrorism in remote areas in Jammu and Kashmir is to strengthen the Village Defence Committees (VDCs).'' Swami visited some of the sites in J&K where the terrorists had struck recently, especially at the Amarnath pilgrims. He denied any cross-firing among security forces causing casualties among pilgrims.''In fact it was precisely the experience of the past incident which came of use this time, Swami said. He said the security personnel were well trained and they did not resort to indiscriminate firing as in the past. ''The security personnel took position and directed pilgrims to lie low, when one militant threw the grenade and began firing randomly on pilgrims,'' he said. While 13 people including six pilgrims on way to Amarnath were killed near Sheshnag in the pre-dawn attack by a militant on Sunday last, about seven local residents of Doda district were killed, in an isolated part away from the villages, subsequently by militants. The minister''s findings revealed that the sole militant belonging to the ''Fidayin'' (suicide) squad of the foreign mercenary militant group, the Laskhar-e-Taiba, had descended upper reaches steep mountains on the Shesh Naga road leading to the Amarnath cave. Taking full advantage of the pitch darkness of the new-moon night, the terrorist entered the security zone, from a place where no one expected of a possible entry. ''Had he come from the road from where security personnel were keeping a check, he would have been caught,'' the minister said. Once he entered the pilgrims, for a while he mingled with them and then suddenly threw the grenade and began firing indiscriminately,'' he said. Subsequently the security forces succeeded in eliminating the militant, but by then more than half a dozen people were killed. In the second incident at Doda, some local inhabitants who had the habit of going into the meadows for sheep raring, were way laid by militants and were singled out in a group and killed. This incident happened when the people moved away from the security zone of the village where, VDCs maintain round the clock vigil against any militant attack. In subsequent stock taking meeting with security personnel deployed in J&K the minister felt that mere pumping in of para military forces would not help much. It was felt that strengthening the VDC system would work better as it would involve the villagers in their self defence and thus make things difficult for the militants.