September 2004 News

J&K: Muslim Villagers Shows Way, Form Anti-terror Women's Team

1 September 2004
The Pioneer

Marah: This is the first remote, mountainous and Muslim dominated village in the frontier Poonch district that has set up a women Village Defence Committee (VDC) to fight terrorists. Marah, a far-flung mountainous village, about 240 kilometers north-west of Jammu, is about five hours difficult trek from last motorable point near Surankot. This area is a part of the Hill-Kaka region where the army had in May last year launched the Operation Sarp Vinash to flush out terrorists who had taken comfortable shelters in concrete bunkers. The army was able to kill over hundred of them while according to sources there were over 250 present in the area when the operation was launched. The terrorists here used to target women when the male members would be out for work. The administration, then, mooted the idea of constituting a Village Defence Committee of women to fight the terrorists. The state has VDCs in remote mountainous areas where a group of volunteers are provided arms and training by the Government to fight the terrorists. But this is for the first time that a women VDC, that too an all-Muslim one, has been constituted. Col RP Singh, who was assigned the task of setting up the VDC, recounts the tremendous difficulties he had faced. 'The foremost was to motivate these Muslim women that Islam allows to pick the gun for protection', he said. For this Col Singh had to educate prominent villagers first. After a lot of persuasion, seven women of the age group of 12 to 20 years were identified for the arms training. Then another problem arised. The army men cannot give them arms training. So for this purpose their own men like brothers, fathers or husbands were taught first to give them the training. 'It was after a hectic training of over a months that these women can now fire with considerable precision' Col Singh says. Nishat Bee, a 18-year-old said, 'Now we can protect ourselves. The terrorists atrocities prompted us to pick up guns and now they dare nor enter our village'. Her companion Shano interrupts, 'In fact militants have not seen this way since we picked up guns against them'. Though, being shy and introvert these women are now bold enough to pick up the gun and protect their children and themselves from the terrorists.


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