SRINAGAR: The murder of a National Conference activist has reignited the demand of disbanding the notorious Village Defence Committees (VDCs) set up at the height of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir.

Ishtiyaq Choudhry, a resident of Kalakote in Rajouri district, was shot dead allegedly by a VDC member on Saturday after entering into argument with ration depot owner over the prices.

Seeking a judicial probe into the killing, provincial president of NC Devender Singh Rana hit out at the PDP-BJP coalition government for trying to "hush up" the matter.

"Choudhary raised voice against the ration mafia and irrational distribution of ration in the area. We seek judicial probe by a sitting High Court judge into the killing. It is a political murder," Rana said.

The J&K Police has registered a case of murder and investigations are underway to find out the causes behind the incident.

In Srinagar, police detained independent MLA, Sheikh Abdul Rashid and his supporters, who were raising anti-VDC and anti-government slogans, when they tried to gherao Chief Minister's residence in protest against the killing.

A senior police officer said Rashid was taken into preventive custody at Gupkar as he was marching towards the CM's residence.

"By marching towards the chief minister's residence, we want to send a message to Mufti Sahib that he must disband the VDCs and constitute a commission to investigate the crimes committed by its members," Rashid said.

According to official date, as many as 196 cases are registered against VDC personnel in different police stations of Jammu province where these VDCs were set up in 1995 at the peak of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir.

National Conference general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar said the time has come for disarming and disbanding the VDCs.

“What is their need when normalcy has been restored in the region and the violence has come down to all-time low? They should immediately handover their weapons to the police,” he said.

Veteran Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani also called for disbanding of the VDCs. “Besides the army and paramilitary forces, India has created another organized state terrorist force in Kashmir in the name of Village Defense Committees .... to suppress the Jammu Muslims and there is no accountability in the state to check the atrocities and cruelties of these government terrorists,” Geelani said in a statement today, terming the incident as heartbreaking and intolerable.

“The Muslim identity of any Kashmiri, irrespective of his political affiliations and beliefs is considered as a big crime and in front of the communal forces the punishment of this crime is not less than the death penalty,” Geelani said.