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Patil assures safer transportaion of villagers from Doda

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, May 17 (UNI) Describing today's grenade attack by terrorists on a group of protestors at Doda as ''serious'', Home Minister Shivraj Patil said the government would ''qualitatively upgrade'' security apparatus in the area, including beefing Village Defence Committees (VDCs) and arming their members with AK-47 rifles.

''The government is not opposed to arming members of VDCs with AK-47 rifles, but it has to be ensured that these weapons are given to the right people for strengthening security and are not misused under any circumstances,'' Mr Patil said in the Rajya Sabha.

He also assured that all efforts would be made for safe transportation of those villagers who had come to Doda to protest against the recent killings there and in Udhampur.

He was responding to concerns raised by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi who wanted a categorical assurance from the government that such incidents, which had already claimed 36 lives in the past fortnight, should not recur.

''Only a day before yesterday you assured that the Doda happenings would not happen again. This morning also, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee assured the House that Doda was a matter of past. Despite all this, BJP protestors were attacked with grenades there, killing some of them and injuring several others,'' Dr Joshi told the Home Minister.

Dr Joshi and Mr Vinay Katiyar (BJP) wanted to know whether the government was contemplating to hand over Doda to the Army to instill a feeling of security among the hapless villagers.

Sharing their concern, Mr Patil quoted reports to say that around 200-300 people from the neighbouring areas of Doda were brought to protest against the recent killings at Doda and Udhampur.

''The protestors demanded they be allowed to join VDCs and equipped with weapons. They were attacked with grenades when they refused to go back to their villages,'' Mr Patil said.

The minister said some 10-15 people were injured but no one was killed in the attack.

Cautioning the opposition against politicising the issue, the minister said holding dharnas would not stamp out the scourge of terrorism.

''Terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir has not been wiped out but it has come down substantially,'' he said.

He also drew attention to the new dimensions of terrorism, which were posing a challenge to the state government and security agencies.

''Small children are being given grenades to throw on the people, and they just vanish after doing so. It is very difficult for security forces to open fire on them,'' he said.

Dr Joshi later told newspersons that the government should declare what they proposed to do. If the state government was incapable of providing security, the Centre should hand over the responsibility to the Army bringing the state under the Disturbed Areas Act, he demanded.

''By allowing repeated grenade attacks on BJP workers, the government is only allowing the designs of Pakistan to succeed and make Doda bereft of the Hindu population and pro-India forces.'' He also declared that the BJP would go ahead with its nationwide rallies and protests against the grenade attacks from May 20 to 27 in various district headquarters of the country to raise awareness about the repeated attacks on the minority Hindu population by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists. The Centre maintaining a silence on such attacks was not a healthy sign, he added.


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