The New York Times (NYT) published a story last week about the arming of villagers in Jammu and Kashmir by the state administration, to combat targeted killing of Hindus living in the remote areas. These villagers are armed under the Village Defence Committees (VDC) programme created by the administration after the targeted killing of civilians, particularly Hindus, by terrorists in the small village of Dhangri in the Rajouri district of the Jammu region.
By Ujjwal Shrotryia
These attacks resulted in the death of six people including two children. According to an India Today report, the terrorists first confirmed the identities of the victims, through their Aadhar cards before shooting them. Many such attacks targeting Hindus have been reported in the state.
The NYT story, netizens have pointed out, attempts to give a communal colour to the VDC programme of the government. The story quotes a local saying “only Hindu groups had been armed”. The report quotes Mohammed Farooq, another Muslim resident of Rajouri, who says that “there was less than three percent Muslims in earlier village defence committees, now it’s zero percent.”
The NYT story also gives an impression that the Narendra Modi government’s strategy of handling Kashmir has failed by stating that the state has to arm villagers despite the area being the most heavily militarised place on Earth, Ukraine-Russia War and Korean DMZ notwithstanding.
Various netizens and Twitter users were outraged over the NYT’s attempt to give a communal colour to the VDCs. One such Twitter user is Shesh Paul Vaid, the former Jammu and Kashmir director general of police (DGP). He has written a series of tweets dismantling the entire NYT story.
Vaid says that the first VDC was established under his command when both the state and the country had a Congress-led government. “VDCs were set up for the first time in 1995 when there was a Congress-led Govt in Centre & J&K was under Governor rule. First VDC was set up by myself as SSP in Bagankote,” the former J&K DGP said.
He says that, “as per Govt order, VDCs were to have its members from all communities irrespective of religion”. He also dismantles the NYT story’s assertion regarding the arming of villagers despite the area being heavily militarised by explaining.
“In hilly regions, villages are far and wide spread where reinforcements could take a couple of hours to reach, it was imperative to arm the civilians for self defence,” he said in one of the tweet.
“In the wake of terrorists resorting to massacres of civilians, particularly Hindu minority, the civilians had to be armed with .303 rifles to protect themselves, their families and their village till the time reinforcements of Police/Security Forces could reach for help,” he said.
He also says that “this article like many others is an attempt to paint the present Indian Government as communal, Hindu nationalist with a muscular policy out of a simple attempt of reactivating existing Village Defence Committees”. It is worth noting that the NYT has a history of biased reporting against India, especially in the context of the situation in Kashmir, outraged netizens said on social media.
This latest article, many said, is no exception, as it attempts to create communal tensions in the region.
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