SRINAGAR: A woman and her three-year-old son were shot dead, allegedly by a Village Defence Committee (VDC) member in Rajouri district on Thursday, days after a National Conference youth leader was killed in a similar attack.

Shamima Akhter and her three-year-old son Tawhid Ahmad were shot mercilessly inside their home in Samote village of Rajouri over unspecified reasons, sparking demands of disbanding the notorious committees in J&K whose members have been found involved in heinous crimes including rape and murder.

Senior Superintendent of Police, Rajeshwar Singh, said the accused identified as Mushtaq Ahmad barged into the Samote residence and fired indiscriminately at the two, using the weapon sanctioned to him by the government. “The reason behind the attack is being investigated and the accused has been arrested. He is being questioned,” Singh said.

The incident comes close on the heels of a similar attack on December 19 in which a VDC member, Kewal Sharma, allegedly shot dead a National Conference leader, Ishtiyaq Ahmed, over some altercation in Potha village of Kalakote tehsil in Rajouri district.

The VDCs were set up in Jammu and Kashmir in the mid-nineties mostly in areas of Chenab Valley and Jammu following the eruption of insurgency. Currently, there are 26567 members in J&K with about 96% percent Hindus. According to officials figures, VDC members are involved in 198 cases of loot, rape and murder.

Following the Thursday's double murder, the opposition parties, including National Conference, separatists, human rights groups and civil society in Kashmir reiterated their demand of disbanding the VDCs in the state at a time when their utility has expired and a semblance of calm has returned to the state.

Calling for disbanding the VDCs, veteran Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani said "reckoning these criminals with the political party is non-sense thinking". "Although there are only 196 criminal cases registered against the members of this force but these personnel are involved in thousands of such serious crimes which have no official record and due to the terror of this force, hundreds of affected people are scared to open their mouth against them,” Geelani said in a statement.

However, Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh Thursday ruled out disbanding of VDCs by saying that "if a political leader does something bad, can a political party be disbanded for his act".

Expressing grief over the double murder, Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS), the largest civil society gathering in Kashmir Valley, said the “continued barbarity” of Village Defence Committee members has "terrorised" the people of J&K.

“They (VDCs) are emboldened by the fascist statement of (the deputy chief minister) Nirmal Singh that the government is not going to disarm and disband VDCs which is actually a government sponsored militia to terrorize and brutalize an entire community of Muslims in this region,” a statement issued by KCSDS said.