Thank you for that update advitya; seems that the MHA babus saved some of their H&D by asking the MoD to issue a denial instead.
Some general info on Village Defence Committees: http://www.jammu-kashmir.com/archives/archives2003/kashmir20031213b.html
Village panels play key role in blocking terrorists' routes
13 December 2003
RAJOURI: The newly-constituted Village Defence Committees (VDCs) have started playing an important role in blocking the movement of terrorists at strategic points in the border areas of Jammu and Kashmir.
The VDCs, mooted as a self-defence mechanism in the mid-Nineties, did not evoke much response. In a focussed campaign, particularly in the Muslim-dominated Rajouri-Poonch belt, the security forces have now been able to establish VDCs in strategic points where there is free movement of terrorists. For instance, in many sensitive areas such as Marah, Draba and Surankote town where terrorists used to pass through with ease, the VDCs have made a great difference. The handpicking of some areas for setting up VDCs has paid rich dividends as it has blocked routes to various other terrorists-infested parts of Jammu or even Kashmir and now the militants have to take longer routes to reach their destinations. In Marrah area of Poonch district, 38 VDC members, mostly Muslims, have blocked the routes terrorists take and now the latter have to trek an additional 15 to 20 km. In the Draba area in the same district, the VDC personnel have blocked the terrorists' routes across the mighty Pir Panjal ranges.
In Surankote town, another major crossing and once considered a hub of terrorists, 100 VDC members were recruited in the last two months. The age-profile of the recruits to the VDC ranges from 18 to 75. A week's training is imparted to these men to prepare them for the difficult battle in their own terrain. Senior police officers, however, point out that the VDCs are provided with the archaic .303 rifles, which cannot match the assault weaponry of the terrorists.
The bulk of the newly constituted 200-odd VDC members are Muslims and their identity is kept a secret. They are emerging as the prime providers of information about the movement of terrorists. The security agencies claim that as the local intelligence network of the security forces has been strengthened in these spots, the terrorists are in disarray. A senior police officer said, 'this is a small beginning, but it will encourage others'.
Village defence panels losing ground
Aug 04, 2003
Budhal (Rajouri) Aug 3. Once flaunted as the finest self-protection mechanism in the remote hills of Jammu and Kashmir against militancy, the Village Defence Committees are now fast losing ground due to poor weaponry and lack of support from the authorities.
JAMMU KILLINGS: Defence Committee ran out of ammo
"We would have beaten them back and saved our people, if our ammunition had not exhausted around 3 am after the six-hour-long gunbattle with 30-40 odd heavily armed terrorists in the village," Singh, who was admitted to the Government Medical College hospital here, said.
Singh, who lost his sister and her daughter in the attack, said the militants, mostly foreign mercenaries with long beards, swooped down on Dansal village and cordoned it off, with the assistance of local ultras, around 9 pm on Sunday night.
Singh also expressed resentment over the state government not arming VDCs with modern weapons. "We had been given only .303 rifles with 50 rounds each... In the presence of militants who are equipped with sophisticated weapons like AK rifles, Pika gun rocket launchers and grenade launchers".
Doda's forgotten army
Special Police Officers are volunteers, paid just Rs. 1,500 a month. Doda district is policed by some 8,000 SPOs, various assigned to counter-terrorist units of security forces or to Village Defence Committees. Pochhal, for example, has three SPOs in its VDC, and all 10 members share their salaries. "Most of the poorer VDC members", explains Hari Ram, "used to work outside the village as labourers for at least a part of the year. The salary, small as it is, is the only way they can afford not to go." When the SPO scheme gathered momentum in the mid-1990s, volunteers were assured those who performed well would be hired as proper policemen.
From the outset, delayed wage payments marred the SPO scheme, but the promise of a job kept the volunteers going. Now, the strains are starting to tell. Earlier this year, 40 SPOs from the hard-hit village of Thatri mutinied. One, Meher Singh, now works as a cook in a private home in Kishtwar. "I hadn't received my salary for six months", he says bitterly, "and had to watch how people who had never done a day's work were hired as policemen."