SRINAGAR: Three days after worst militant attack and suicide car bombing killed 40 CRPF men and injured many others in Lethpora area in south Kashmir's Pulwama district, Jammu and Kashmir government on Sunday withdrew security of five separatist leaders including moderate leader and cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Bilal Gani Lone, who is brother of ex-BJP ally and Peoples Conference chairman Sajjad Gani Lone.
The State government today issued orders withdrawing all security and any government facilities provided to five separatist leaders -- Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, Bilal Gani Lone, Hashim Qureshi and Shabir Shah."All security and any vehicles provided to them will stand withdrawn.
No security forces or cover should be provided, under any pretext, to them or any other separatists," reads the government order.
It further stated that if the separatists have any other facilities provided by the government, they are to be withdrawn forthwith."Police Headquarters will review if there are any other separatists, who have Government security or facilities, and will withdraw these immediately," added the government order.After the government order, the security cover of the separatists was withdrawn.
The State government had informed year that over Rs 15 crores were spent on guard/escort and Personal Security Officers (PSOs) of separatist leaders in last decade.Of the five separatist leaders, whose security cover has been withdrawn, three including Mirwaiz, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat and Bilal Lone had met former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishen Advani during NDA's rule in 2004.
Shabir Shah is currently in Tihar Jail after his arrest in 2017 by Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case while Hashim Qureshi is was accused of hijacking Indian Airlines plane (Ganga) to Lahore in Pakistan in 1971. He returned to Kashmir in 2000 and was later provided security cover by the authorities.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was provided security cover after assassination of his father by suspected militants in 1990. Bilal Lone, whose brother Sajjad Gani Lone is former BJP ally and ex-minister, was provided security cover after the assassination of his father in 2002.The two top leaders including hardline Syed Ali Geelani and JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik were not provided any security cover by the authorities.
Shabir Shah's party spokesman said Shah, who is in Tihar jail, was never provided any security cover by the government. "So the announcement of withdrawal of security cover to him is nothing but a big lie," he said.Prof Abdul Gani Bhat told this newspaper that he had never asked for security.
"And I will never ask for it. Infact I had asked the government many a time to withdraw it. But when they insisted that I keep the security, I told them to provide me only two cops. But they did not do it. Now they have withdrawn it today and I am happy," he said.
"It will help me go back to my people as I am no longer guarded by the policemen. The contradiction which was willfully foisted on us has gone," he said.Rejecting labeling of separatists as Pakistan and ISI agents by Government of India, Bhat said, "We are not agents of India and Pakistan. We are citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, who want peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute".
Bilal Lone said he was provided security after assassination of his father in 2002."I had never asked for it. Providing security cover is government prerogative. And it is their prerogative to withdraw the security. However, withdrawal of security cover is not an issue for us. It will not change our stand on Kashmir," he said.
A spokesman of Mirwaiz said separatist leader has it was the government that insisted on keeping the cops based on what they said was their assessment of threat perception. "It was the government decision at that time to keep it. Today it's their decision to remove it. It's not an issue for us".The State BJP has welcomed withdrawal of security cover to the separatist leaders.