They fight militants hand in hand
6 February 2005
Our Staff Reporter
Mahore: People in this militancy-infested zone on the Pir Panjal hills of Jammu and Kashmir have come up with a novel way of fighting the 'jehadis'. They have enlisted members of all communities in the village defence committee (VDC). The VDC has as members both Hindus and Muslims and they fight hand in hand to wipe out militancy in their areas. In the past, militants of the local Hizb-ul Mujahideen unit tried to communalise the situation by asking Hindus to migrate to the south of the Chenab. They also carried out targeted killings to reinforce their message. Seven family members of Chain Singh, a resident, were killed three years ago. This triggered a wave of migration in some hamlets. Protecting brethren Now, the trend is reversed. The local Muslim youth have taken up the responsibility of protecting their Hindu brethren who returned to the villages recently. A year ago, 800 Muslims took up arms to fight the militants and the number has only gone up. Since the formation of VDCs, there has been no migration. Efforts by militants have been resisted by the locals, many of them being killed in the process. The VDC has proved to be a big deterrent for the militants. They are not able to sneak into houses at will for shelter. This particular belt lying in the north of Udhampur district falls on the highway route and militants infiltrated into the interior areas of the State through the Rajouri-Poonch corridor. Naz Hussien, a VDC member, said: 'Militants try to polarise society here. But we will not allow this to happen. We have to finish this jehadi mindset from our soil. Militants have misused the concept of jehad.' J. Sharma, a local police officer who initiated the recruitment of locals into the VDCs, says: 'The results have been encouraging. It is impossible for the force to ensure the full security of such a vast hilly area, but since the formation of VDCs the situation has improved.'