India revives network of village guards in Kashmir after militant attack

January 13, 2023 7:30 am

[Source: Reuters]

India is reviving a network of thousands of village guards in Jammu and Kashmir, including arming some with automatic rifles, after a militant attack in the disputed region killed seven civilians earlier in January, a police official said.

New Delhi has battled a decades-long armed insurgency in Kashmir, accusing arch rival Pakistan of stoking violence in the territory – an allegation that Islamabad denies. The nuclear-armed neighbours claim the Himalayan region – that includes the Muslim majority Kashmir valley and Hindu-dominated Jammu – in full but control only parts of it.

Authorities reactivated an almost defunct network of 26,000 Village Defence Guards (VDGs) after militants killed seven residents of a Hindu community in a remote village in Jammu’s Rajouri district on Jan. 1.

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“We are re-grouping and rejuvenating the VDGs who were already there,” local police chief Haseeb Mughal told Reuters.

“There was slackness after years of normalcy in the region and now we are training and reorganising them to prevent any such attacks. We have also provided automatic rifles to some.”

The Rajouri attack alarmed authorities, concerned that it could be a sign that militants were looking to expand into Jammu because of a heavy military presence in the Kashmir valley, a security official said, asking not to be named.

In 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government reorganised Jammu and Kashmir, then India’s only Muslim-majority state, into two federally administered territories, aiming to spur development and tamp down on the bloody insurgency.