Srinagar, August 16: In disputed Kashmir, the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society has demanded immediate disbanding of the so-called Village Defence Committees (VDCs) and Ikhwans (government-sponsored gunmen).The JKCCS spokesman in a statement in Srinagar said that the powers of Special Police Officers must be limited to traffic control. He said that the puppet administration was allowing unchecked power and a complete lack of accountability to VDCs, SPOs and Ikhwanis.
The spokesperson, while questioning the composition of VDCs, said that in Kishtwar district, where the ratio of Hindus to Muslims was 35:65, of a total of 3,287 VDC members, 3,174 (96.56%) were Hindus. “Further, out of 3,287 VDC members, 865 are paid as VDC/SPOs, and of these 865, only 21 (2.43%) are Muslims. The rest of the paid VDC/SPOs (97.57%) are Hindus,” he said.
He pointed out that in Doda district, where the ratio of Hindus to Muslims is 30:70, of a total of 6,521 VDC members, 5,874 (90.08%) were Hindus. Out of 6,521 VDC members, 1,729 are paid as VDC/SPOs, and of these, only 126 (7.28%) are Muslims. The rest of the paid VDC/SPOs (92.72%) are Hindus, he added. Similarly in Ramban district, where the ratio of Hindus to Muslims is 30:70, of a total of 2,901 VDC members, 2,697 (92.96%) are Hindus. “Further, out of 2,901 VDC members, 177 are paid as VDC/SPOs, and of these, only 1 (0.6%) is a Muslim. The rest of the paid VDC/SPOs 176 (99.4%) are Hindus. These details were furnished by the administration itself in reply to an RTI application,” he stated.
Citing reasons for dissolution of VDCs, the spokesman said that on July 29, VDC members killed 16-year-old Shamim Ahmed Lone in Thatri area of Doda. “A few days prior to the murder of Shamim Ahmed, a 16-year-old girl in Kishtwar was kidnapped and raped by persons backed and protected by the VDC,” he said. He also quoted newspaper reports that from last over a month at many places in Doda-Kishtwar region masked men had terrorized people.
“Over the last week, several places in the Jammu region, particularly Kishtwar, have been subjected to violence at the hands of VDC members, supported by Hindu communal groups, which resulted in the loss of three lives, numerous injuries and loss of public property. The unabated support and encouragement to the VDCs by Indian Government, has ensured deepening communal strife,” he added.
He deplored that India was following the policy of controlling the people of occupied Kashmir through might and for that purpose numerous informal and formal networks of forces like VDCs, SPOs and Ikhwanis were formed in addition to regular army, paramilitary and police. He said that these forces had been involved in gross human rights violations in the territory.