JAMMU — In a significant decision to ensure the security of the hinterland, India Army has started to train Village Defence Guards (VDGs) in Jammu region with modern weapons.
As per reports from the news agency KNO, the fresh development came in wake of recent terrorist strikes in Dhangri village of Rajouri district that killed seven people and injured nearly 15.
As per officials, Army Crossed Swords Division, which is headquarters at Akhnoor and looking after the security of Rajouri sector, organized an interaction with VDC members and personnel of Jammu Kashmir Police in Sunderbani to discuss various issues pertaining to hinterland security and improving firing skills of VDCs.
Similar camps were organized at Doda and Kishtwar districts, which were earlier under the effect of militancy.
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 was earlier called Village Defence Committees (VDCs).
“The self-defence camps were conducted across the length and breadth of Jammu region, where VDCs, now VGD, equipped by the government during peak militancy,” an official said, adding, “The districts have seen unprecedented participation by the VDGs in the last two weeks since the commencement of camps.”
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.
“In Doda, 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 were 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 practiced firing.
Kishtwar’s Sondar Army organized another camp where one-day training sessions included classes on basic handling of weapons, firing position, and lectures on periodic maintenance of weapons.
The aim of the training session for Village Defence Guard members was to impart training so that they can perform mandated tasks eventually. A large number of members attended the same. The Village Defence Guard members lauded the initiative and expressed hope for peace and stability in the region.
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 a 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.