'Strengthen defence committees in Doda'
22 May 2006
New Delhi: The Doda Vichar Manch has urged the Union Government to revive and strengthen village defence committees (VDCs) in the Doda region which has witnessed an upsurge in terrorist violence recently. In an open letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the Manch said that members of the VDCs should be armed with automatic weapons and their stipend should be raised to Rs. 5,000 a month. 'The establishment of an Army cantonment in Bhaderwah should be expedited as the work on this project has been going on at a snail's pace for the past so many years. Special pickets of para-military forces should also be set up in sensitive areas,' said Doda Vichar Manch president S.S. Kotwal. The Manch demanded creation of security zones in Doda to take care of panic-stricken citizens in a bid to check the fears of mass exodus from the district. It said that the Bhaderwah-Chamba (Himachal Pradesh) road should be completed and made operational. Mr. Kotwal pointed out that Doda district had become a soft target and haven for terrorists due to its difficult terrain and lack of communication facilities. Spread over an areas of 11,700 sq km, it is the largest district of Jammu and Kashmir after Leh and Kargil. In the recent J&K Assembly elections, people came out in large numbers to vote for Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, he said, reaffirming their faith in democratic process. 'Terrorists have malicious designs to make demographic changes in the area and Doda has been their target after they succeeded in the Valley,' he said.