Lethpora Attack: Government Withdraws Security To Mirwaiz, Others

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Srinagar

Days after the Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited Kashmir after the car bomb attack killed more than 40 CRPF personnel; the government has finally withdrawn the security of five persons including Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, one of the three separatists who make the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL). Withdrawing security to them was part of a series of decisions that the Home Ministry took.

Hurriyat Conference Chairman and Mirwaiz Kashmir Umar Farooq after Friday prayers meet people inside the Grand mosque, historic Jamia Masjid in the old city of Srinagar.KL Image By Bilal Bahadur

“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,” Home Minister Singh said. “The security cover provided to such elements will be reviewed.”

Officials’ sources said the five persons whose personal security was withdrawn include Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Gani Lone and Hashim Qureshi.

According to the order, media reports said all security and vehicles provided to them will stand withdrawn by this evening. “No security forces or cover will be provided, under any pretext, to them or any other separatists. If they have any other facilities provided by the government, they are to be withdrawn forthwith,” the reports quoting the official sources said.

Interestingly, Shabir Shah’s party said their leader, presently in jail, has never had the security cover. The government has included Hashim Qureshi also in the list even though he is not part of any separatist grouping. “My father, Hashim Qureshi, has suffered torture at the hands of ISI and spent years in jail in Pakistan,” Junaid Qureshi, son of Hashim tweeted. “In the wake of reports of withdrawing his security, let it be clear that the dispensation in J&K and Delhi will be responsible if anything untoward happens to him or my family.”

Bilal Lone, elder brother of former minister and Peoples Conference leader Sajad Lone is also in the list of people whose security was withdrawn.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat and Bilal Gani Lone

Interestingly, the separatists have stated that the government decision is unlikely to impact them. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq has termed it “a non-issue”.

“It was the government decision at that time to keep the security. It’s their decision to remove it. It’s not an issue for us,” the separatist cleric was quoted by The Hindu saying. “It has no bearing nor can it in any way change the reality of the lingering Kashmir dispute or the situation on the ground or our principled stand and outlook regarding its resolution.”

Mirwaiz is the only separatist leader who had a huge security cover. It was necessitated after the militants gunned down his father, Molvi Mohammad Farooq on May 21, 1990. The security cover is extended basically on basis of the threat perception.

“Security was provided by the state government and I don’t need it,” Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, who is part of the Hurriyat (m) but not a member of JRL, was quoted saying. “My security is Kashmiri people.”

After the process of implementation of the decision started, it was BJP that had to face an interesting situation. As the people criticised the government for withdrawing security, the critics made a special mention of Syed Ali Geelani and Mohammad Yasin Malik, the two other JRL members. This forced the BJP secretary general Ram Madhav to explain things: “Several people asking about SAS Gilani and Yasin Malik may note that neither enjoys any security cover or other facility from d government. Gilani is under house arrest.”

Though the government has been securing the separatist leaders on basis of the threat perception, the security cover was also helping the state apparatus to know what they are doing. In absence of the security cover, there were instances when the people got into their residence and literally pulled them out to lead in protests. It happened in 2008 and 2010.

Now the government will have to deploy police and keep these separatist leaders under house arrest. It is already the case at Geelani’s residence and it might be the only way-out at Mirwiaz’s Nigeen residence.

The issue of extending security cover to the separatists has been cropping up in the assembly quite often. Last time in February 2018, the government gave a detailed response during the budget session when Pawan Gupta sought the details.

In response, the government place on the table a five-page annexure. It suggested that the state government booked an expenditure of Rs 10.8875777 crore on providing security cover to various separatist leaders. Most of the expenditure was booked on the salaries and wages of their security detail and the fuel that the escort consumed.

From 2008 to 2017, the Government claimed it spent Rs 103665824 crore on providing salaries to PSOs of various separatist leaders and Rs 4970805 on fuel to vehicles escorting them.

The government revealed that an amount of Rs 4,44,558 is being incurred as monthly salary to the guard personnel / PSOs attached with Aga Syed Hassan Mosavi.

The reply said that six SPOs were attached with Prof Abdul Gani Bhat and amount of Rs 4,32,000 is being paid as the honorarium to these SPOs annually through Police Division Sopore.

Details suggest that Mosvi’s security cost the state government Rs 10408103, that of Mirwaiz Umer Farooq Rs 26793459; of Prof Abdul Gani Bhat Rs 21453500; of Molvi Abbas Ansari Rs 10516037; of Bilal Gani Lone Rs 16571717; of Salim Geelani Rs 3470031; of Zaffar Akbar Bhat Rs 4795800; of Shahid ul Islam Rs 8147600; of Abdul Gani Shah (Kishtwar) Rs 874611; of Syed Abdul Hussain (Budgam) Rs 2521000; of Farooq Ahmad Kichloo (Kishtwar) Rs 874611; and for the security of Masroor Abbas Ansari Rs 2210160.

The reply further stated that the PSO and guard of Shahid ul Islam stands withdrawn from July 25, 2017. Shahid is in NIA detention.

According to the reply, at least eight separatist leaders are provided security cover by the state police. These exclude Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mohammad Yasin Malik. All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leaders, who have been provided security cover, include Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Bilal Lone, Molvi Abbas Ansari Abdul Gani Bhat, Shahid ul Islam, Saleem Gillani, Fazal Haq Qureshi and Syed Hassan Mosavi.

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