Women take to guns to fight militancy
23 August 2006
The Daily Excelsior
Poonch: A 38-year-old woman, whose son was kidnapped by militants, has resolved to fight militancy and is giving a new dimension to counter- militancy operations as a member of Village Defence Committee (VDC) in the mountainous areas of Jammu and Kashmir. Security officials revealed that many women are now joining the VDC and are learning the art of self-defence to fight anti-social elements. 'Women in hilly and rural zones of the cold Pir Panjal mountains are increasingly enlisting themselves in VDC cadres and getting trained in the use of weapons,' an official said. Officials believe that women in large numbers are revolting against the social curbs imposed by religious extremism and militancy in the Muslim dominated State. Well-trained and equipped VDC member Gulzar Bibi said militants kidnapped her 13-year-old son Mohammad Yassin and took him to an undisclosed destination in the year 2000. 'I was helpless and approached every militant commander and outfit leader but they refused to return my son. Then I decided to fight them and protect other members of my family from militancy,' she said. Talking to mediapersons, she said, 'I did not have any alternative before me. I lost my son but now I have decided not to allow militants harm the rest of my family. I am hopeful that one day I will get back Yaseen from the militant's custody.' Police officials here said, 'The first VDC for women was set up in the Marrah area but now the idea is fast catching up in other areas.' 'The interference of militants in the socio-economic life of the people living here is also the reason for the new revolutionary trend. Sometime back militants tried to reinforce a 'burka pehno' (wear veil) campaign in this hilly and border belt,' the official added. Taslima, a 24-year-old lady said, it is an exciting experience to learn how to handle weapons. Now we feel empowered and our sense of insecurity has definitely lessened. We have realized that silence only breeds fear.' VDC member Mohammad Aslam, who is engaged training women said the trainees did not take much time to master the use of weapons. They handle the archaic 303 rifle easily even though it is heavier than the automatic ones. 'We also teach some of them to operate automatic weapons like AK-47 or even the SLR given to Special Police Officers (SPO), ' Aslam said. One of the officials told mediapersons that two years ago militants had attacked tribals in the nearby Teli Kathaarea region in Surankote but had to retreat owing to the brave resistance by three women who fought for an hour forcing them to escape for their lives. They managed to kill 13 people but the counter attack by those brave women saved many lives.