J&K separatists want VDCs disbanded, detained

Srinagar, Dec 30 (IANS) Separatist leaders demanding disbanding of village defence committees (VDCs) in Jammu and Kashmir were detained by police here on Wednesday as they tried to take out a protest march.

Nearly three dozen protestors gathered at the Lal Chowk city centre, shouted slogans against the village defence committees and demanded their disbandment.

The protestors also raised slogans against the coalition government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Separatist leader Nayeem Ahmad Khan, who recently joined the Hurriyat faction led by Syed Ali Geelani and was leading the protestors, termed the VDCs “killer committees”.

“VDCs were actually formed by the government to silence dissent and terrify the freedom-loving people. The unrestricted powers bestowed upon them have turned them into a dreaded private force,” he said.

“VDCs should be immediately disbanded or we will be forced to launch a state-wide agitation against them,” Khan said.

He said the PDP-BJP ruling combine was denying “political space” to separatists and “suppressing dissent with an iron fist”.

As soon as the protestors tried to march, police stopped them and bundled Khan along with dozens of supporters and Hurriyat activists into police vehicles and took them to a police station.

Last week, a VDC member killed a mother-son duo in Rajouri district of Jammu region, just days after another VDC member killed a National Conference leader in Kalakote in the same district.

Separatists and the main opposition National Conference have been demanding dissolution of the VDCs, set up by the government in the mid-1990s to fight militancy in remote and far-flung regions of Jammu.

VDC members have often being accused of violating human rights and using influence to settle personal scores.

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