New Delhi, February 17: After the Government cracked the whip on pro-Pakistan elements in Kashmir by withdrawing the security cover extended to five top separatists, Hurriyat leaders reacted to the move calling it a “propaganda gimmick” while adding that they “do not need it”.
In a major step taken in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack, the Centre on Sunday withdrew the security cover of five top separatists. The decision comes two days after Home Minister Rajnath Singh slammed “those who take money from Pakistan to create unrest in Kashmir”.
Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Bhat said, “Security was provided by the state government and I don’t need it”.
“My security is Kashmiri people. There are chances of war between Pakistan and India. Let them address the war issue first (sic.),” he further said.
Reacting to the withdrawal of security from the separatist leaders, the Mirwaiz-led All Parties Hurriyat Conference spokesperson said the separatist leaders had never asked for security and that they had repeatedly said that the government can withdraw it.
The spokesperson said that “with or without these police personnel at Hurriyat residence all remains the same”.
“Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, in fact, said many times during his Friday sermons that he wanted the withdrawal of security cover,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“The decision to withdraw security will neither change the stand of the separatist leaders nor affect the situation on the ground,” the statement added.
The J-K administration said on Sunday that the security cover of all separatist leaders including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Lone, Hashim Qureshi and Shabir Shah will be withdrawn by the evening of February 17.
Mirwaiz is the chief of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC).
However, names of pro-Pakistan separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik do not feature on the list.
Clarifying why Geelani’s name was not on the list, a police officer said Geelani was under house arrest and as such no security was provided to him on an individual basis.
However, questions are being asked that when Geelani is under house arrest, why is he being allowed almost daily, to issue anti-India and anti-security forces statements. He was also allowed to address through phone the gatherings at the funeral of terrorists killed in encounters with security forces.
According to the order, no security forces or cover will be provided, under any pretext, to the five separatists or any other separatist. Other facilities like vehicles provided to the separatists will stand withdrawn by Sunday evening.
The Police will review to ascertain whether the security and facilities of any other separatists need to be withdrawn immediately.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, during his visit to Srinagar on Friday, had said security given to people getting funds from Pakistan and its snooping agency ISI should be reviewed.
Without naming the Valley-based Hurriyat leaders and those indulging in anti-India activities, the Home Minister said there are some elements who are hand-in-glove with terror organisations and ISI in Pakistan.
“They are involved in terror conspiracies and as such are playing with the future of the people and especially the youth of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
“The security cover provided to such elements will be reviewed,” he announced.
According to official figures, a sum of Rs 10.37 crores was spent on the salary of security men of various separatists between 2008 to 2017. Another Rs 49 lakh was spent on the fuel of vehicles escorting them.
The three top separatists, Syed Alishah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik have been keeping the pot boiling in Kashmir by issuing statements against India and the security forces. The demand to withdraw their security cover has been raised from time to time.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had recently spoken on phone with Geelani and the Mirwaiz. Many separatists have reportedly been in constant touch with the New Delhi-based Pakistan High Commission.
Over 44 CRPF personnel were killed and many injured on Thursday in one of the deadliest terror strikes in Jammu-Kashmir when a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide bomber blew up an explosive-laden vehicle near their bus in Pulwama district.
The bus was part of a convoy of 78 vehicles carrying around 2500 CRPF personnel from Jammu to Srinagar. (Courtesy: TS)