NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear a petition against providing Central funds to separatists, as “illegal and unconstitutional”. Kashmir is not the safest place in India right now, as the pro-azadi agitation continues, claiming 77 lives so far. But the separatists, who refuse peace parleys and thank Pakistan in public, lead a safe existence, courtesy the Indian state. Since 2010, the total expenditure on protecting and mollycoddling them, as per government documents, exceeds Rs 560 crore.
The total strength of the Jammu & Kashmir Police is estimated at 73,363. Of these, around 18,000 policemen are deployed as guards at homes and properties of politicians and pro-separatist activists. As many as 8,000 cops work as personal security guards (PSO) of politicians.
In 2014-15, the state government spent over Rs 120 crore on fuel, hotel stay and security of separatists, which is more than the state’s budget allocation of Rs 100 crore earmarked for widows and destitute women under welfare schemes. It is also three times of the Rs 40 crore allocated for integrated child development schemes and the creation of additional 1,000 anganwari centres. A top official told The Sunday Standard, “In 2015-16, Rs 234.51 crore was spent on the 1,971 persons on the protected list.” Shockingly, one of them is pro-azadi leader and Democratic Liberation Party chairman Hashim Qureshi, who hijacked an Indian Airlines F 27 aircraft and took it to Pakistan on January 30, 1971.
In 2013-14, the state government spent Rs 107 crore—including approximately Rs 4 crore on hotel bills and Rs 5 crore on petrol and diesel—on sedition activists in the Kashmir Valley. As per official records, the government spent Rs 69 crore on the salaries of guards on the security detail of anti-India political activists and Rs 40 crore on PSOs in 2014. The total money spent on the salaries of guards since 2010 is Rs 309 crore. Rs 150 crore went to PSOs. A total of 669 ‘uncategorised’ activists across 22 districts also get security cover from the state.
Kashmir’s separatists, who refuse peace parleys and thank Pakistan in public, lead a safe existence, courtesy the Indian state. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, chairman of the Hurriyat Conference who is fuelling the fire in the Valley, is among the 1,472 political activists who are guarded by J&K Police. Pro-Pakistan separatists Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, Moulvi Abbas Ansari, former Hurriyat chairman Aga Syed Hassan Mousavi and Bilal Ahmed Lone, all executive members of the Hurriyat, are getting state privileges. Other names are Hashim Qureshi, a pro-Pakistani Kashmiri separatist and founding member of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF); Salim Geelani, affiliated with the moderate faction of the Hurriyat; Zafar Akbar Bhat, chairman, Jammu Kashmir Salvation Movement; and Shahid-ul-Islam, spokesman of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference.
Jammu district is home to 109 uncategorised political activists, followed by 93 in Doda. Srinagar tops the chart with 207, including 83 who are provided security cover. In Shopian, where separatists are leading the ongoing agitation, the government pays for guarding 39 activists, including 15 uncategorised political activists. Similarly, 114 persons are enjoying security cover in the curfew hit-Anantnag. Of these, 49 are in the uncategorised list. There are 124 categorised protectees in Srinagar. Neighbouring Baramulla has 66 political activists in the categorised list and 32 in the uncategorised category. The state police provides security cover to 82 categorised political activists in Kupwara. Baramulla has 98 similar political activists covered under the state security umbrella. Pulwama and Kishtwar districts have 70 such political activists each, while Budgam has 62 of these separatists.
The fuel expenses of separatists are intriguing. Although they have been provided secured accommodation considering alleged threat perception, it appears that they are, in fact, travel enthusiasts averaging Rs 5.2 crore a year to fill their tanks. Since 2010-11, Rs 26.43 crore has been spent on their fuel by the state exchequer. According to government documents, the state has provided at least 708 vehicles to 481 protectees. The government splurged Rs 3.6 crore on hotel accommodation for 440 political activists, including 294 uncategorised activists last year. State documents show since 2010-11, hotel bills of separatists have come to around Rs 21 crore.
However, there is a strategic change in the Modi government’s Kashmir policy. “Isolate them first before a crackdown to neutralise any adverse impact” is the message from the top. Sources said NDA government doesn’t want the numerous fence-sitters to join militants. “The strife is caused by just 20 per cent of people. The rest are fence-sitters. The idea is to expose the separatists and stop the privileges they have been enjoying so far,” sources said.