In the wake of two terrorist acts in Dhangri village of Rajouri district that killed seven people and injured nearly 15, there has been a renewed impetus to revive Village Defence Guards (VDGs) and as a part of this exercise, Indian Army Camp, responding to the calls, started training and equipping the VDGs in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir.
An Army official said that the villagers are being trained and armed under the banner of Village Defence Guards (VDGs), a new name for what were earlier called Village Defence Committees (VDCs).
“The Self-Defence Camps conducted across the length and breadth of the district has seen unprecedented participation by the VDGs in the last two weeks since commencement,” said the officer.
He added that the VDGs are being gradually equipped with SLR weapons which will replace the aging 303 rifles which will further boost their preparedness.
‘A total of eight camps have been held so far by the local Army unit, Rashtriya Rifles, in conjunction with the Police in Doda which saw an attendance of around 500 VDG members,” he said and added that the Indian Army has so far held three special firing practice sessions for the volunteers in Arnora firing range in Doda.
“Over 170 VDGs, drawn from different villages of the district, took part in the firing practice sessions which was held in coordination with local police,” he said.
He further added that weapon handlers and shooting experts of the Army demonstrated proper use of weapons to VDGs who later practised firing.
“We thank the Indian Army and the JKP for training us and giving us the facilities of a better firing range,” a VDG member training in the Gei camp said, “We are ready to work in coordination with the security forces to counter terrorists.”
The Village Defence Guards comprise local village volunteers and were first active in the 1990s in several districts including Doda, playing a significant role in self defence of the villages, and assisting forces in counter-terrorism operations and maintaining vigil in respective villages.
They remained inactive for several years thereafter but were reactivated two years back, in 2020, to render help in a variety of internal security duties in the region, keeping in mind the emerging terror challenges.