Villagers battle militants in the higher reaches
21 March 2005
Our Staff Reporter
Rejarha (Surankote): The battle against militancy in the higher reaches of Jammu and Kashmir is far from over. Local youths in the far-off hamlets of Pir Panjal have blocked highway routes of the militants by picking up arms in self-defence. This act coupled with the formation of village defence committees (VDC) has thrown an open challenge to the militants operating in this belt. The Pir Panjal belt situated 5,000 feet above sea level used to provide a safe haven to militants until the advent of the VDCs. The committees have not only helped the villagers defend themselves against the terror network in the remote areas but also carry out counter-militancy operations. In a major success for one such operation recently, 30 youths of Rejarha fought militants who infiltrated from Bagh tehsil of Pakistan- occupied Kashmir into Mandi block of Poonch district. These 'Saudi- returned' youths blocked sensitive crossing points by forming VDCs. The formation of the committees in this belt has denied militants access to the interior Anantnag and Udhampur districts as well. It has also proved the indispensability of local youth in the counter- militancy operations. As a senior police officer put it, 'we have been trying to build VDCs in these areas but our efforts did not succeed. Now that there is one we hope it would be an example to the other parts of the State.'