The annual report prepared by a human rights group in the state has revealed that more than 90 per cent members of Village Defense Committee (VDC) are Hindu’s, which “leads to communal polarization and increase in militarization”. The report released by Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of civil society (JKCCS) reveals that out of the 26,000 VDC members in 10 districts of Jammu province, more than 90 per cent belongs to Hindu community. “The excess of members from Hindu community in VDC has led to the communal polarization and also increase in militarization in the state,” the report says. The report reads that on June 30 a Territorial Army soldier Liyaqat Ali and VDC member Tariq were arrested for firing and creating panic among people in Targie area of Kotranka belt of district Rajouri. “On August 12, 2015, Ramban police arrested a Village Defence Committee (VDC) member Beer Singh for shooting dead his colleague Tirath Chand in the mountainous district of Ramban. This killing served a pointer that how dangerous this group could be to unarmed civilians,” it says. The report further mentioned that in December 2015, two gruesome incidents took place in the same district. “On December 20, a youth leader of National Conference (NC) Ishtyaq Ahmad was killed by the VDC member Kewal Sharma in Potha village. Merely five days later, on December 25, in another gruesome incident a woman and her four-year-old son were killed in cold blood by this unbridled force,” report reads. According to the report, the firing and killing incidents inject deep fear particularly in Muslim community of Jammu who find themselves highly vulnerable to this force. In its prepared report, JKCCS has said that the statement made by the Deputy Chief Minister ruling out disbanding of the VDC while responding to the December killings was deplorable. “The continuation of this force poses a disturbing question, as to how the government is comfortable with such a force having a long track record of human rights violations like rapes, killings, abductions etc. It appears the group was created to infuse terror and curb the Muslims populace of the Jammu province on the name of countering militancy,” JKCCS said. Followed by the 2013 riots in Kishtwar and widespread allegations against the VDCs, JKCCS filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Srinagar Bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. “The PIL besides seeking complete ban on VDCs also sought an investigation into the creation, existence and the crimes perpetrated by pro-government militia – Ikhwan, and the disarming of Special Police Officials (SPOs), and limiting their functions,” report adds. The report reveals that out of nine probes and inquires ordered by the state administration, only one case has been concluded while the remaining eight cases are still gathering dust. The government has ordered probe in nine cases of human rights violation. JKCCS in a report has said, “The perception that probes are ordered to deflate the public anger has been proved yet again as findings are still withheld in 8 out of 9 probes. In 2015, only in the case of Farooq Ahmad Bhat of Palhallan, the government probe was concluded,” they said. After the probe of the same case was concluded, the enquiry report finds police involvement and declared the youth innocent. However, it could not be ascertained whether any action was initiated against the guilty or not, JKCCS said. “The victims, who were assured action against the guilty by the government in so called time bound inquiry at the time of the incident, have to suffer and face harassment from the perpetrators and State,” JKCCS in a report said.
2015 Kashmir Despatch