Indian state using “encroachment” narrative and demolition drives to economically marginalize Kashmiris
On 6th February, a rights organization called Legal Forum for Kashmir released a report titled…
On 10th January, Indian army announced that it shall provide military training to the so-called Village Defence Committee (VDC) guards. The Village Defence Committee is constituted by extremists who claim to combat “terrorism”, but in reality, the Committee historically has been used against pro-freedom Kashmiris. The Modi-led Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been pushing for arming Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir against pro-freedom Kashmiris.
The human rights bodies have long maintained that the Village Defence Committee is involved in harassment and violence against civilians under the garb of fighting “militancy”. Many members have also been accused of crimes like rape and drug trafficking. In 2016, the then Jammu and Kashmir government informed the state legislative assembly that there were a total of 221 cases against members of village defense groups, 23 were murder cases, seven were rape cases and 15 cases were rioting.
In a report by Kashmiri journalist Safwat Zargar, it was stated that many of these “crimes acquired a communal hue, since the defense groups were predominantly Hindu, operating in Muslim-majority areas. In the Chenab Valley, for instance, Muslims form 61% of the population, according to the 2011 Census. However, Right to Information queries revealed more than 90% of the members of village defense groups in the Chenab region were Hindu.”
In 2014, Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological architect Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh took credit for the creation of Village Defence Committees in Jammu and Kashmir by saying that it was the RSS that had devised the “basic draft” of the committee policy.
In the report by Zargar, many volunteers of the committee admitted to being affiliated with the BJP. “We are supporters, members and activists of BJP and we have been in constant touch with the party leadership over our problems,” said Ratan Chand Sharma, a prominent member of the committee.