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Indian army officers instruct the women village defence committee, VDC members during a training camp organized by Indian army to protect themselves and their homes from militants at Sarya village near Indo-Pak line of control about 140 KM from the Northern Indian city of Jammu, winter capital of Kashmir on 16 March, 2008. 27 women from Sarya village have been trained to use AK-47s and other heavy-duty weapons. Training of VDC members at regular interval would imbibe a sense of self-confidence and boost their confidence in dealing with an adverse situation, Indian army officer said.

Womes Cadres of VDC in Kashmir

Muneera Begam a women cadres of Village defense committee equipped with sophisticated AK-47 rifle holds position in the hilly areas of surankote in Jammu and Kashmir . The VDCs were first set up in 1994 in Doda district by the state government to combat militancy and lateron it was extended to other areas of Jammu and Kashmir .Each Village defense Committee Group consists of four to five members and is headed by a Special Police Officer, (SPO) .the VDC members are equipped with latest arms including AK-47 rifles and 303 rifles to fight militants in the respective areas .Presently there are more than 1500 VDCs operational in the state.

"I am proud to fight a Jihad [holy war] against marauders who have cheated us of our dignity and honor," says Shamima Akhter, the 30-year-old commander of this particular women's group.

"Militants who would force us to provide them shelter, food and at times to entertain them physically were harassing us physically and mentally. If we opposed them they would commit rapes or kill our family members. We wanted to confront them and the only way to do it was to acquaint ourselves with the basic functioning of guns and grenades," she added.

To avenge [the 2003 killings of militants], a Lashkar group in April 2004 attacked Kulali village and killed 14 women and children while the men were out on an operation.

Later, in June 2004, the militants executed another attack, which was repulsed by a woman, Khatoon Begum, who had learned to use a 303 Rifle from her son. Although she died in the attack her act helped save at least a dozen members of her family from Islamic guerrillas.

"Khatoon Begum's daring act lead to the foundation of all Muslim women VDC. We were supported by our husbands and fathers and thus trained ourselves in the operation of 303 rifles, SLRs, grenade throwing and other military aspects of how to react and repulse a militant attack", stated another women fighter, Shahnaz.

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