JAMMU: Members of the Village Defence Committees (VDCs), which serve as 'security arch' to defend remote and hilly villages against terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, on Tuesday threatened to surrender weapons if the government fails to release their pending salaries immediately.
They claimed that they have not been paid salaries for the past over eight months.
Led by Jammu Village Defence Committee (JVDC) Association president Bihari Lal Bushan, over 1,000 members, who had come from different parts of Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban, Reasi, Poonch and Rajouri districts, took out a rally here to protest against the pending salaries.
They were raising slogans and calling for the intervention of Lieutenant Governor GC Murmu and advisor Farooq Khan into the issue.
"This is our second protest rally in Jammu. If the government fails to grant us salaries immediately, we will surrender our weapons in respective districts with police lines," Lal told reporters here.
He said if anything "untoward" happens with people living in rural, remote and mountainous villages, "which we protect", the responsibility will be of the government.
"Since 2015-16, we have not been getting salaries, but even then we have been performing security duties to protect villages from terrorists in Jammu hills and also take part in anti-militancy operations with police and army. Is it our crime?" he asked.
Another VDC member Vijay Kumar said VDCs are not getting salaries for the past several months and it has forced them to come here and hold protest.
"We demand immediate grant of our salaries, which have not been released to us for the past several months. While wages of Special Police Officers have been increased to Rs 18,000 from Rs 5,000, that of VDC members have been withheld," he said.
As many as 4,125 VDCs exist in Jammu and Kashmir and their work is to ensure safety and security of the identified villages along the borders as well as in interior areas and infrastructural installations in and around them.
The VDCs were set up in the mid-1990s with an aim to strengthen the security of those living in remote and mountainous areas of Doda, Kishtwar, Ramba, Rajouri, Reasi, Kathua and Poonch districts.