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Witness: India arms Hindu militias in Kashmir, causing fear and anxiety among the Muslims of the region


Government forces recently armed 150 people in this area and they also received training on how to use these weapons.

Municipal employee Sangeet Kumar is still in shock after the recent killing of 7 Hindus in a separatist attack in Dhangari village in Kashmir. But he is determined to defend himself after getting a gun and ammunition from the Indian army.

The government forces recently armed 150 people in this area and they also received training on how to use these weapons.

Kumar, 32, says he is willing and able to defend his home, especially after the attack.

“We were terrified by the recent attack,” the electricity department employee told AFP.

“Anyone who turns out to be a traitor to our nation is a target for me,” he added.

Kashmir has been divided since 1947 between India and Pakistan, which dispute sovereignty over it completely, and it was the reason for the outbreak of two wars between the two countries.

For more than three decades, separatist groups have been demanding independence for Kashmir or annexing it to Pakistan and fighting Indian soldiers.

Tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and rebels were killed in these battles. Tensions have worsened in Indian-controlled Kashmir since New Delhi imposed its direct authority over the region in August 2019.

“Village Defense Guards”

Many villages with a large Hindu population now have militias called the “Village Defense Guards”, a civilian militia formed last year at the initiative of Indian Home Minister Amit Shah after a series of murders targeting policemen and Hindus in Kashmir.

More than 5,000 Hindus in two border areas have been armed by Indian paramilitary forces, according to security officials.

The people of Dangari are still shocked and saddened by the attack, which killed 7 villagers, which police blamed on militants in Pakistan.

“With or without weapons, we feel terrified,” said farmer Murari Lal Sharma, 53, who carried a .303 rifle. “But now I will fight.”

According to a soldier from the Indian paramilitary forces, the villagers are on constant alert and his unit has had to inform them of its night patrols so as not to be targeted.

For his part, Kanchan Gupta of the Indian Ministry of Information told AFP that “the goal is to establish a line of defense, not an offensive line.”

Hindu militia

India had previously established a civilian militia in the mid-nineties as a first line of defense at the height of the armed rebellion against Indian rule in Kashmir.

Some 25,000 men and women were armed and organized into Village Defense Committees in the Hindu-majority Jammu region.

Human rights organizations accused the participants in these committees of committing atrocities against civilians.

At least 210 cases of murder, rape and extortion have been filed, according to official figures, but less than 2% of the accused have been convicted.

According to Gupta, these are individual cases and not organized crimes by the militias.

“There is always a danger that some will turn into rogues,” he said, stressing that “everyone cannot be controlled.”

Muslim fears

While this plan is very popular among the Hindu population, Muslims fear that these militias will exacerbate tension and problems in Kashmir.

“What worries me is the way weapons are now being distributed in one community,” an elderly Muslim living in Dungari told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“Now, young men are brandishing weapons. It’s not good for any of us,” he said. “I feel increasingly nervous.”

The trainers of these militias, a paramilitary force of the Central Reserve Police, warned that they would be punished for misusing these weapons.

“In addition to training them in shooting, maintaining and cleaning weapons, we also tell them what kind of legal action will be taken in case of misuse,” said the force’s spokesman Shivanandan Singh.

Three people have been killed by mistake since the militia was established.

However, these reservations did not prevent many in the villages around Dangari from turning to arms.

“Now there is a weapon in every house around my house,” said Ajay Kumar, a former military man who now works in a mill.

“If necessary, I will use my gun,” he added.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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