The RSS on Monday claimed credit for the formation of the village defence committees in Jammu and Kashmir. In the run up to the state assembly elections, the Sangh has said that it devised the 'basic draft' of the policy, which involved forming committees at the rural level, arming civilians, in order to prepare them to 'protect themselves' from militants.
At a book release event in the capital, RSS leader and national executive member, Indresh Kumar - who has extensively worked in the state - said, "I made the basic draft the of the village defence committee plan in collaboration with security agencies. I also planned how to use former soldiers in the security system." He joked that whenever security officials were awarded and recognized for their role in devising the VDCs, they would call him up and say that the Sangh did not seek honour, but they felt like they were 'stealing' an honour that was not theirs.
Indresh added that he now believed that separatists and terrorists would be wiped out, and in a clear reference to the polls, said 2014 would be the year when 'Kashmir, Kashmiriyat, Hindustaniat' can be brought back into the mainstream.
VDCs first came up in the state in the early 90s and are more active in Doda, Kishtwar, Poonch, Rajouri, and parts of the Udhampur district. They are primarily dominated by Hindus. Officials offered the logic was that since security forces could not be everywhere, villagers themselves could be trained in 'self-defence'. Each VDC, according to a report in Greater Kashmir newspaper last year, said that about eight members, who were armed with a weapon each.
But human rights activists as well as many in the political class have since documented and noted that VDCs often engage in violation; many incidents of random violence have been traced to such committees; they were reported to be involved in the Kishtwar clashes last year; and there is a view in Kashmir that the SC ban on groups like Salwa Judum where the state has outsourced its coercive functions should also extend to such outfits.