India Revives Controversial Village Defence Committees (VDCs) in Jammu and Kashmir
The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has decided to revive the Village Defence Committees (VDCs) in Jammu and Kashmir. Aimed at curbing militancy in the Jammu region and for the protection of the Hindu community, VDCs are known for their notoriety. The government has rechristened these committees as Village Defence Guards Scheme (VDGs).
Origin of VDCs
The Indian government established VDCs in the mid-1990s when militancy was at its peak in Kashmir. Most of the infiltration would take place through the Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban, Rajouri, Reasi, Kathu and Poonch districts of the Jammu region. The government set up VDCs for self-defence of the Hindu community in remote villages of the region. They also aimed to report and fight militants/intruders that may be present in these remote villages. Since these villages have a difficult terrain and villagers are familiar with the terrain, VDCs were to complement the Indian Army and Jammu and Kashmir Police’s counterinsurgency measures.
VDCs mostly consisted of civilian villagers who wanted to voluntarily provide their services. They were provided proper training by the Indian Army from time to time. There are varying numbers of VDCs in different villages. Lately, VDCs have been declining due to the volunteer nature of the work. The government paid for their services but not in a systematic manner.
As of June 2016, there were 4,125 VDC volunteers in the Jammu and Ladakh regions of Jammu and Kashmir. They had killed/caught 14 militants since their inception in 1995.
Also read: The Rise of Hybrid Militants in Kashmir
VDCs have been found involved in a plethora of cases of rape, murder, riots and communal clashes, a fact accepted by the Jammu and Kashmir government. The data available presents a grim picture of the VDCs. According to several media reports, the total number of cases registered against VDCs stood at around 221 cases. These cases include 23 murders, 7 rapes, 15 cases of rioting and others.
Human rights groups have argued that VDCs are a bad way of handling counterinsurgency measures. Putting the responsibility of counterinsurgency in the hands of some civilians does not lead to good outcomes. The government arms them, making them responsible for the security, while they stand outside the formal network of security forces. In this condition, it is very difficult to hold them accountable for their misdeeds. Add to it the meagre amount of salary or no salary that they would get from the government.
Also read: Lawlessness in Police Custody- Custodial Killings in Kashmir
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Rechristening of VDCs into VDGs
The Indian government has rechristened Village Defence Committees (VDCs) rechristened as Village Defence Guards Scheme (VDGs). The decision to revive the VDCs came after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders from Jammu and Kashmir insisted the central government revive them. According to an order, the VDG scheme aims to “organize a small group of volunteer armed civilians in the identified villages along the borders as well as in-depth areas of the Jammu division, with a view to instill a sense of self-protection and ensure the safety and security of such villages, infrastructural installations in and around them and to check the trans-border movement.” Under the said Scheme, the VDGs “shall be charged with the responsibility of protecting community installations, and infrastructure facilities within the defined areas of their village and the Village Defence Guards would conduct night and day patrolling in a systematic manner.”
Further, the government has also decided to pay VGDs systematically. In more vulnerable areas, the government will pay Rs 4500 (58 USD) per month to the persons leading/coordinating the VDG. Other persons, who are members of these VDGs on a voluntary basis, will be paid Rs 4000 (51 USD) per month. Further, VDGs will function under the direction of the Superintendent of Police (SP) or Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of the concerned district.
Also read: India Gags-up Media in Kashmir
Some Questions Raised by VDGs
After the revocation of Article 370, the ruling government claimed that the move will end insurgency in the region. Over the subsequent years, the government has claimed that Kashmir is more peaceful than ever. The militancy is at its lowest. However, the revival of VDCs contradicts these claims. Kashmir-based politicians have raised questions over the revival of the VDCs and the government’s claim of peace.
There are also concerns that VDCs mostly recruit Hindu volunteers now. As claimed by several politicians and citizens, earlier Muslims also used to participate in VDCs, but they are mostly Hindu-majority now. Some politicians have claimed that the ruling party is arming its Hindu-right-wing supporters through VDCs.
It is pertinent to mention that the revival of VDCs comes at a time when the government is looking forward to holding assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
The track record of VDCs does not paint a good picture. Killing or catching 14 militants since 1995 while having more than 200 criminal cases registered against its members is a dismal track record.
Huwara rampage: a prova for a possible Israeli Holocaust.
On 26 February, hundreds of heavily armed Jewish settlers protected by the Israeli army, rampaged through the Palestinian village of Huwara, just south of the northern West Bank town of Nablus, ransacking and torching homes and property and killing at least one local resident. According to the Palestinian health ministry, hundreds of people were injured, with many sustaining serious and crippling wounds that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. The rampage in Huwara has been described as the most violent since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967.
According to various sources, the settlers had received definitive instructions from government officials telling them “to teach the Palestinians a lesson they wouldn’t forget.”
The settlers, affiliated with the religious Zionist movement, are indoctrinated in a Nazi-like Talmudic ideology which considers the targeting of innocent noncombatants such as children, women and the elderly as perfectly legitimate during the time of conflict.
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has accused the Israeli government, the most racist and fascist ever, of backing a rampage in Huwara. Israeli Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich was quoted as saying that Huwara needs to be “wiped out and razed to the ground” and that the state of Israel should do it.
Israeli Prime Minister told foreign journalists that Smotrich couldn’t use PR-friendly language to communicate his message, prompting one Israeli journalist to remark that “Netanyahu seemed to be acting as PR officer for Smotrich.”
When this and other writers employed Nazi epithets to describe current Israeli policies and behaviours in the Occupied Palestinian territories, some people, especially Western intellectuals, thought we were exaggerating the level of Israel’s genocidal Jewish barbarianism.
However an honest look at the perpetrators of the Huwara rampage reveals that these people are far from being a small or marginal extremist group, not representing the mainstream Israeli Jewish society.
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In fact, these are the very people who rule Israel today. They are the people of the government. They represent the crème de le crème of the Zionist religious movement in Israel.
Hence, we are not talking here about some wild weed growing uncontrollably in the midst of an otherwise sane society or anything of this sort.
Our erstwhile critics who didn’t like the use of strong epithets to describe Israel, mainly for psychological reasons, would probably pay more attention to the purported half-full glass rather than the half-empty one.
But in all honesty, there is simply no half-full glass in Israel today. Some naïve observers here and there might still think that the international community wouldn’t allow Israel to cross the Rubicon.
Unfortunately, It has now been proven that neither Israel could be given the benefit of the doubt nor could the so-called international community be entrusted to prevent or even restrain the increasingly brazenly Nazi entity from doing the unthinkable, namely launching a partial or full genocide against the unprotected Palestinians.
Indeed, the feeble American and European reactions to the Jewish rampage at the village of Huwara proved that the US can not be relied upon to rein in or restrain Jewish Nazism in Palestine.
The US, after all, is the very country that enabled Israel to be what it is and reach this evil level of barbarianism and arrogance of power by funding, defending and constantly optimizing Israeli Nazism.
Hence, relying on Washington to rein in genocidal Israel is merely a futile exercise in naivety, day-dreaming and wishful thinking.
Besides, All that America can offer to force Israel to behave doesn’t really go beyond futile gentle preaching stressing the need to exercise self-restraint and not indulge in incitement and extremism.
But Israel is not restrained by gentle preaching and polite rebuking or even harsh verbal chastisement. Such a toothless discourse will have no effect whatsoever on a shameless violator of international law, but could actually further embolden the Zionist entity even further.
What Israel needs is a thorough de-Nazification which would convince the racist supremacists in occupied Palestine that the recurrent rampages and genocidal savagery against the Palestinian people would have serious consequences on the Israel state.
Huwara rampage : Prova for a real Holucaust?
As someone who is quite familiar with the religious Zionist mindset, I can safely argue that the rampage at Huwara, which represents the cumulative outcome of years of toxic incitement by the Talmudic schools, such as the Merkaz Ha-Rav in West Jerusalem (the CNS of religious Zionism in Israel) is just a mere prova for something to come that is much more ominous, much more and much more genocidal.
Indeed, if these genocidal thugs and killer beasts could do this shamelessly in front of TV cameras from all over the world, just imagine how they would behave and what they would do to their helpless victims if the area were to be declared a close military Zone and all journalists and cameramen were ordered to leave.
I am saying this because I am completely convinced that the concept of genocide is absolutely and completely compatible with the religious teaching and ideological indoctrination of these people who apparently were spoon-fed this poison since their kindergarten days.
As a journalist who has been covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially the settler phenomenon, ever since I graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1981, I can honestly argue with all honesty and rectitude, that these people represent the Nazis of our time.
I am not eager to put any people down, and I’m absolutely and totally against all forms of anti-Semitism.
But we must call the spade a spade, irrespective of whether we see the proverbial implement in the hands of Da’esh killers, Jewish settlers in Huwara or Vagner mercenaries in Ukraine. If we don’t wake up, if the world doesn’t wake up now, especially after what we saw in Huwara, when will we wake up?
The Huwara rampage is more than just writing on the wall. It is more than a dark cloud hanging over the West Bank. The rampage in Huwarra is actually the penultimate step, the sound alarm coming before a real genocide that could be carried out at any moment by these reptile murderers, protected and assisted by the Israeli army.
Enter the Palestinian Authority
As to Palestinians, they must not allow themselves to be beguiled or sedated by worthless statements coming from the American state department.
The neo-Nazi trio of Netanyahu, Ben-Gvir and Smotrich will not give a hoot to worthless statements coming from worthless people in Washington.
In September 1982, the Reagan administration gave solemn assurances to the PLO that no Palestinian refugees in the Beirut region would be harmed if PLO forces left Beirut.
However, when the PLO left, as part of an agreement mediated by the American envoy Phillip Habib, Israel’s Christian allies, the Phallangists, ganged up on the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps, south of Beirut, ransacking the two camps and slaughtering more than 3500 innocent men, women and children. Not a single perpetrator was prosecuted or punished for the genocidal massacre.
The Palestinians must not commit the same criminal blunder again, by trusting the US to protect our unarmed civilians from the Nazis of our time.
We need something much more concrete, much more reliable and much more certain. After all, it is our children’s lives at stake! Today, they set homes on fire while children and babies inside.
Tomorrow they will build a huge crematorium to burn our kids in broad daylight while a US State Department would regurgitate the same stale statements about Israel having the right to defend itself!
In Palestine, no peace before the slate is clean
It seems that peace in Palestine will remain confined to the realm of wishful thinking. For the vast majority of people around the world, the racist apartheid entity known as Israel is probably the most gargantuan crime against humanity ever committed in the history of mankind.
Israel was conceived in sin, misbegotten in evil when it was established nearly 75 years ago, remains completely evil today, and will always be irremediably evil, no matter how many people sing its praises.
The creation of Israel in Palestine may not be the most heinous genocidal act in history. But it is most certainly the biggest and most obscene theft ever. How else can any honest person describe the arrogation of an entire country by the British empire and surrendering it, as a (National home), on a silver platter to another people ( Zionist Jews) on the ground that these people were stateless and persecuted, especially following the tragic events of the World War II.
Indelible calamity for Palestinians
Indeed, the very creation of Israel and its malignant growth into a powerful evil entity has inflicted a huge indelible calamity to every Palestinian family.
Yes, thanks to Zionism’s triumph, thanks to overwhelming, unlimited and sustained backing by racist, anti-Islam Western powers such as UK and US, every Palestinian family had its share of the still ongoing agony, immense suffering and misery resulting from the establishment of the evil entity, which is nothing less than a protracted, unrelenting and unceasing crime against humanity.
It is probably impossible to find a single Palestinian who has escaped the impact of the Zionist Jewish crimes, still, continues unabated.
Israel: When will the Jews say Mea Culpa?
This writer’s family, for example, was forced to dwell in a cave for 20 years, following the near extermination of my father’s family in 1953. In that fateful year, Jewish terrorists massacred his three paternal uncles, Hussein, Mahmoud and Yousef not far from the village of, al-Burj, about 30 km southwest of the town of Hebron.
The three, along with other relatives, were totally innocent shepherds, grazing their folks of sheep near the armistice line. In addition to murdering my family, the Zionist murderers stole hundreds of sheep upon which our family depended on for living.
Read Also: Expect a Srebrenica-like massacre anytime by Jewish Settlers in the West Bank
Interestingly, up to this day, Israel, the so-called only democracy in the Middle East, has not said “Mea Culpa“! let alone paid compensations for their crimes When will the Zionist Jews say a simple sorry for their unwept victims? Perhaps when kosher pigs fly!
Yes, every single Palestinian has a story to tell about what happened to his or her immediate family, relatives, neighbours and fellow villagers.
The Zionists, notoriously selfish and narcissistic, calculated that old Palestinians who experienced the holocaust-like Nakba first-hand ( the brutal, violent extirpation of an entire people from its ancestral homeland does constitute a form of genocide), would die and the young would forget.
However, the Zionist calculations proved utterly faulty as the cause has been kept alive and living, strongly and firmly, in the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world, including in Palestine itself where close to eight million Palestinians continue to live as a thorn in the Zionists’ side despite all their nefarious designs, plots and exploits to consign our just cause to oblivion.
There are several reasons for this exemplary resilience and steadfastness on the part of the Palestinian people, including the following:
1-The colossal Nakba, was by no means a one-time event lasting for a few weeks or a few months, followed by peace or an end of hostility. The Palestinians actually never encountered circumstances or conditions conducive to making them or their descendants forget or overcome their pains. Indeed, ever since 1948, the collective Palestinian experience has been a sequence of atrocities, pogroms, repressive measures, mass internment and imprisonment, home -demolitions, land-grabbing, sporadic massacres, and similar acts of persecution and oppression. This would draw a conclusion that peace in Palestine belongs to the realm of fantasy.
The main purpose of these evil measures has always been to force the Palestinians, or significant numbers of them, to leave their homeland for good. Indeed, in many instances, the Zionist authorities offered attractive sums of money to “encourage” Palestinians to emigrate to countries such as Australia and Canada. However, very few Palestinians would swallow the Zionist bait.
The unrelenting suffering and the protracted oppression and savagery kept alight the torch of resistance even to this day as most Palestinians came to realize that they were facing two main alternatives: continued resistance even at a high price, or going into oblivion and repeating the experiment of the “American Indians” of the Middle East.
2-The second reason which enabled the Palestinians to keep their struggle alive is their strong Islamic faith. Islam encourages its followers to resist oppression and not succumb or give in to oppressors. True, Palestinian nationalism played and continues to play an important role in sustaining the resistance. However, it is amply clear that Islam is more able to provide an inexhaustible source of motivations for the increasingly religious showdown with Israel. More to the point, Palestinians feel they have a paramount religious duty to protect, defend, and liberate al-Aqsa Mosque from the claws of Zionism. Indeed, most Palestinians realize there can be no Palestine without Jerusalem and no Jerusalem without the Aqsa Mosque. Hence, their resolve to sacrifice body and soul for the liberation of Islam’s third holiest sanctuary.
No Peace without Justice, but Justice is more than impossible
Since there can be no lasting peace in Palestine without true justice that leaves the slate thoroughly clean, it would be safe to argue that reaching a genuine peace between Muslims and Zionist Jews would be as unlikely as Satan the devil entering the Garden of Eden in the company of prophets, saints, martyrs and righteous people on the Day of Judgment.
But since Satan will go to hell rather than paradise, peace in Palestine will remain confined to the realm of wishful thinking.
And even if Zionist Jews were to reach the conclusion that enough was enough, they still would have to agree to a system of redress for the egregious injustices inflicted on their victims from the very inception of the gargantuan crime against humanity.
For justice, even a semblance of justice to materialize, the Jews of the world would have to pay the Palestinians adequate and prompt reparations for the purpose of promoting justice and redressing the horrible and still ongoing crimes against the victims and their descendants up to the 10th generation. I cannot determine the exact amount of reparations and indemnification which Jews would have to pay for the victims. But an initial amount of 30-50 trillion dollars would probably suffice for a final rapprochement. Am I undergoing day-dreaming. Definitely. That is why even invoking the possibility of a real durable peace between Palestine and Israel belongs to the realm of fantasy and wishful thinking. (end)
26 Million People Affected By Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria
Powerful earthquakes and aftershocks struck southern Turkey and northern Syria on the 6th and 20th of February, 2023.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 26 million people need humanitarian assistance. The death toll is climbing above 50,000 and is expected to rise as many victims remain missing.
Furthermore, the WHO calls the Turkey-Syria earthquakes the “worst natural disaster” in the region in 100 years.
Turkey-Syria Earthquake: What Happened?
On February 6th 2023, the first earthquake hit southeastern Turkey and the northern Syrian border, measuring a magnitude of 7.7. Within minutes entire cities turned into rubble. Following this, a second earthquake measuring a magnitude of 7.6 hit the same region a little later.
Two weeks later, on February 20th, another earthquake of 6.4 magnitudes struck the same border area previously hit. Moreover, there have been more than 9,000 aftershocks recorded since.
The Aftermath of the Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
These earthquakes caused immeasurable devastation for an estimated 26 million people damaging and destroying homes and infrastructure, including approximately 214,000 buildings across both countries.
An estimated 240,000 rescue workers continued working in quake-hit provinces in Turkey. They persevered for weeks to find survivors trapped under rubble despite no survivors found for long periods of time. An estimated 1.9 million people are in temporary shelters, hotels, and public facilities.
As of February 25th 2023, in Turkey alone, 44,218 people died due to the earthquakes, while the announced death toll in Syria was 5,914 people.
Selective Humanitarianism During Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
The international response to the Turkey-Syria earthquake has disproportionately overlooked the Syrian people’s suffering. Syria has faced 12 years of civil war, and with international borders blocked, many Syrians received no help in the first few days after the earthquakes.
Read more: The Humanitarian Crisis in Syria 2023: A Forgotten War.
It took over a week after the earthquakes for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to issue a three-month authorization for United Nations (UN) aid deliveries to pass through two more border crossings. These significant aid delays resulted from the regime’s influence over affected regions.
These unacceptable delays entirely defy the principles of humanitarian law. As a result, Syrians have limited access to search-and-rescue reinforcements and lifesaving aid, unnecessarily costing many precious lives. The UN has failed the people of northwest Syria, highlighting inadequacies within the current system.
The slow humanitarian response to the earthquakes severely affecting northwest Syria illustrates the inadequacy of the UN Security Council-mandated cross-border aid mechanism in Syria. Thus, this crisis highlights the urgent need for alternatives to be put in place.
Read more: The Repatriation of ISIS Children Detained in Camps in Northeast Syria 2022.
The UN Pledges a $1 Billion Appeal For Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
The UN launched a $1 billion fundraising appeal to support the humanitarian needs of those affected. This appeal fund will support Turkey’s “once in a generation disaster” for three months and a $397 million appeal to help 4.9 million people in Syria.
So far, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund has donated $11.7 million. The UN held that so far, Denmark is the only country recorded to donate aid worth $1.5 million.
Human Rights Concerns Following Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
Health infrastructure was destroyed in many places, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases like cholera, diarrhoea and typhoid. In Gaziantep, a major city in south-central Turkey, hundreds of people are sleeping in tents in different parts of town, and trash has begun to pile up in public parks where some of these tents are located.
Therefore, hygiene problems, as well as inadequate housing, are some of the biggest problems in the region. In addition, the inadequacy of public toilets and the lack of infrastructure to use these toilets increases the risk of epidemics in the region.
Children’s Rights in the Aftermath of the Earthquakes
According to UNICEF, the recent earthquakes have affected an estimated 5 million children. Natural disasters such as earthquakes have severe consequences for vulnerable groups in society, such as children.
As the recovery efforts in Syria and Turkey continue, children’s rights must be a priority. All children must have access to fundamental rights such as food, clean water, and housing. Furthermore, children’s access to education and protection from exploitation and abuse is imperative. Many children in the region are unidentifiable as they are too young to know their full names, while hundreds of children’s parents remain missing.
Implementing the general principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is of fundamental importance, especially in times of crisis.
Syrian refugees in Turkey Face Forced Return to Earthquake-Strikken Regions
An estimated 1.7 million Syrian refugees lived in the ten southern Turkish provinces devastated by the earthquakes. Unfortunately, these refugees rely on temporary or international protection status. Without prior authorization, these refugees cannot travel to other provinces.
However, following the earthquakes, Turkish authorities issued a directive allowing refugees in these ten provinces to travel to other regions, except Istanbul, for up to 90 days if they could secure their accommodation.
However, in the first few days following the disaster, many fled to Istanbul, resulting in the Directorate General of Migration Management revising its decision to a case-by-case basis due to Turkey’s economic difficulties. There has been a growing anti-Syrian sentiment in Turkey which has become the host of the world’s largest refugee population.
Following this, a second directive provided refugees with a 60-day exemption to travel to other provinces without prior authorization. The question remains as to where these Syrian refugees will return to following the expiration of the directive.
A Committed and Sustained Global Humanitarian Response is Needed
The aftermath of these devastating earthquakes requires a committed and sustained international humanitarian response. Thousands are missing, and 1.5 million are homeless without shelter, food, clean water, and access to healthcare.
The true impact of this disaster will not be fully understood for decades. The international community must step up and provide aid and relief to the earthquake victims. Most importantly, human rights protections must be at the heart of the response.
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