Jammu & Kashmir: Special Training Camp For Village Defence Guards Held In Rajouri

Village Defence Guards were upgraded this month in the wake of Rajouri killings and their older .303 rifles were replaced with self-loading rifles (SLRs).

A session for Village Defence Guards (VDGs) earlier this month after Rajouri terror attacks.

The authorities organised a special training camp for Village Defence Guards (VDGs) in Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri on Sunday, said officials. 

On January 1, terrorists opened fire at houses in Dhangri, killing five. Before fleeing the scene, they planted an improvised explosive device (IED) near the house of one of the victims. The next morning, the IED exploded and killed two children. The persons killed in the firing are identified as Satish Kumar (45), Deepak Kumar (23), Pritam Lal (57), Shishu Pal (32), and Prince Sharma. The children killed in IED blasts are identified as Vihan Sharma (04) and Samiksha Sharma (16).

In the wake of the fear and insecurity among J&K's minority Hindus following the attack, the authorities revived VDGs and upgraded their weapons from older .303 rifles to self-loading rifles (SLRs)

Officials told PTI that the camp was organised by the Indian Army, the J&K Police, and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). It was attended by Village Defence Guards (VDG) from Lam, Laroka, Mohra Kampala, Pukharni, Bhata, Raipur and Qila Darhal, according to officials.

What are Village Defence Committees?

Village Defence Guards (VDGs) are the members of Village Defence Groups, which is a revamped version of earlier Village Defence Committees (VDCs). 

VDCs were set up in 1990s to provide self-defence capabilities to civilians in Jammu and Kashmir. Under the scheme, each VDC used to have a Special Police Officer (SPO) as its in-charge and there were 10-15 other volunteer members, mostly ex-service personnel. They were given .303 rifles and ammunition. The SPO in charge of the VDC was paid whereas the rest were volunteers, according to The Indian Express.

The VDCs were revamped as Village Defence Groups in 2020.

It was not just a change of name as the very structure of committees was changed. Unlike VDCs where only SPOs were paid, all VDGs are paid. 

"In more vulnerable areas, the order stated that persons (VI category) who shall be leading/ coordinating the VDG would be paid ₹4,500 per month and other persons (V2 category) who are members of these VDGs on a voluntary basis will be paid a uniform rate of ₹4,000 per month," reported Hindustan Times.

Training sessions for VDGs were held earlier this month as well in the wake of Rajouri killings. 

Training camps for VDGs

The trainers on Sunday demonstrated proper handling of weapons, cleaning and their maintenance, the officials said, adding that a special firing session was also organised for the participants.

"We have been working as VDC members for over a decade. Things were relatively calm in the last 10 years but there is some disturbance now and we are preparing ourselves," one of the participants said.

He appealed to the government to provide Self-Loading Rifles to ex-servicemen who are VDGs in order to further strengthen them.

Senior Superintendent of Police, Rajouri, Mohammad Aslam said efforts to strengthen VDGs are going on across the district.

"Special training capsules are being organised across the district to hone their skills so that they can tackle the terror threat effectively," said Aslam.

(With PTI inputs)