Is Ansar-VDP a well-equipped force?16 November 2022
Dr. Forqan Uddin Ahmed :
Ansar and VDP is the largest community based disciplined organization of Bangladesh. The total number of this force is more than 60 lakh. The female members cover the half of the total number. The organization of the force is extended up to village level. In the villages, we have one male VDP Platoon and one female VDP Platoon each comprising of 32 members. In the union level, there is one Ansar male platoon and in every Upazilla there is one Ansar Company each comprising of 32 and 100 members respectively.Since the inception of Ansar-VDP, its members are taking part in law and order activities, Socio economic development activities and performing various other activities for alleviating poverty and improving the quality of life.
As majority of its members are working at grass root level voluntarily and individually, so no mentionable study or survey has been done regarding the success, failure or impact of their performances. Ansar-VDP has a long tradition and mentionable historical achievement. In 1971 during Pakistan crackdown, the then Volunteer Ansar Members participated. In the War of Liberation, 9 officers, 3 staff and 635 Volunteer Members who belonged to Ansar organization dedicated their lives. A historical guard of honor was given by trained Ansar members at Mujibnagar to the first head of Govt. of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, which became a part of history.
Ansar organization came into being in 1948. After partition in 1947, it was felt to organize a voluntary organization after the name of Ansar in Madina. Accordingly, the Ansar members have been selected and enrolled based on the relatively rich people in high society. There is a social responsibility of the rich people to support their neighbors, who are actually in need. All Muslims are supposed to follow it as a mandatory subject as it has been directed through the holy Quran. The erstwhile East Pakistan was created on the concept of two nation's theory. The then Pakistani ruler representing a Muslim country in the world decided to setup a volunteer structured group and gave it to a shape of institution as Ansar organization. But this couldn't establish institutionally in Saudi Arabia. This volunteer organization today has become the biggest voluntary and para-military force followed by introduction of cadre service in Bangladesh.
Before creation of Ansar cadre, a new wing had been developed named as VDP wing. The full name is Village Defense Party. This name could be village development policing instead of defense. However, names do not matter. Be it defense or development - both these have their positive meaning and bear good explanation and connotation. Sometimes, it is called the second line defense force - as the status is given by law. Actually, it was not done on franchise or enacted by law. Because, making a para-military force money involvement is very high. Considering its expensive condition, it has been given a status, which is half-civil and half-military. From these mixtures, people are ignorant of it. Again, they are not clear whether it is a civil or a military. But it's a fact that no country in the world can serve with so a cheap allocated money, though there are merits and demerits from service point of view.
Ansar and VDP is the vast grassroots trained force. Nowhere else in the world is there such a large force in terms of manpower. The force has considerable capability and potential to address any challenges related to socio-economic development, law and order and human security issues in the country, although Ansar and VDP have a lot of potential to face any challenge. Practically Bangladesh Ansar-VDP has many problems and limitation of the force.The force does not have the necessary logistical support and legal capacity to conduct operations as an effective force.The problem needs to be resolved immediately. However, Bangladesh Ansar and VDP forces have immense potential to address any challenge to the socio-economic development, law and order, skilled human resource development and human security of the rural marginalized people of Bangladesh.
To ensure the implementation of overall development in every village, the Ansar-VDP members may be given the task and responsibility by union parishad. In this regard, some development committee may be formed locally, especially in the village level ensuring the participation of Ansar-VDP members. These committee activities may be monitored by upazilla Ansar-VDP office and local union parishad jointly. Under the banner of peace, security and other social mobilization we may mention the committee as Law and order committee, Total literacy movement project/program committee, Health project/management committee, Agriculture project/ management committee. Committee relevant to gender issues and other socio-economic committee as required may be formed.
China's volunteerism concept may have a special attention to our case. Regarding volunteerism in China, our approach should have the same category approach by ideology and spirit. Today's Ansar VDP is not confined to its nomenclature only. It can be a well-defined area to promote activities in public security and socio economic development aspect. Social development will get a momentum taking its activities as a campaign. Bangladesh Ansar VDP force can be utilized by its manpower. So reforming as well as revitalizing Bangladesh Ansar VDP is a need of the time. To serve the purpose, necessary reformative plans and programs need to be formulated.
It should not be looked down upon. Rather, it may act as peoples force like the developed countries in the world. So the future prospects and potentialities of this force might be taken into special consideration.
(The writer is former Deputy Director General, Bangladesh Ansar and VDP).