The government on Sunday withdrew the security cover granted to five separatist leaders in Kashmir. However, the security personnel assigned to these leaders have not left their postings yet, officials told “The decision has come from New Delhi,” a police officer said.

The separatists whose security has been withdrawn are Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Shabir Shah, Hashim Qureshi, Bilal Lone and Abdul Ghani Bhat, PTI reported. The cover was withdrawn following a terrorist attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Pulwama on February 14, killing 40 soldiers. The Jaish-e-Mohammed extremist group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The official order said that all security and vehicles provided to the separatists will be withdrawn by Sunday evening. Other facilities provided to the separatists will also be taken away. “No security cover will be provided under any pretext to these five leaders and other separatists,” a statement issued by the Jammu and Kashmir government said.

The statement said the police headquarters will review if there are any other separatists who have government security or facilities and they will be withdrawn immediately.

The decision to remove security cover was taken at a meeting chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on Saturday. On Friday, Singh had said that “some elements” in Jammu and Kashmir have links with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and with the terrorist establishment. He had said these “elements” take money from Pakistan and ISI. “I have told the officers that the security provided to such people should be reviewed,” he had said.

Meanwhile, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference issued a statement on Sunday claiming that the withdrawal of security cover makes no difference. “The government and its propagandist anti-Kashmir media had repeatedly been raking up the issue of police personnel provided to resistance leadership to politicise, knowing fully well it has no bearing nor can it in any way change the reality of the lingering Kashmir dispute,” a Hurriyat statement said. “With or without these police personnel at Hurriyat residence all remains the same.”

The statement said that Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has repeatedly said at the Jamia Masjid in Srinagar that the Centre can withdraw his security cover. “In fact, it was the government that insisted on keeping the personnel based on what they said was their assessment of threat perception,” the statement added.

BJP welcomes government move

Bharatiya Janata Party’s Jammu and Kashmir unit chief Ravinder Raina on Sunday welcomed the decision to withdraw security cover to the five separatist leaders, PTI reported.

“The Hurriyat people are the real enemies of the Kashmiris and they are the ones who ruined the Valley,” Raina said. “Their security [being] withdrawn is a welcome step and I would like them to be arrested and lodged in Tihar and Jodhpur jails.”

Raina said the Hurriyat leaders were “sinners” and alleged that they were responsible for the terror attack in Pulwama. “If Kashmir is facing terrorism today it is because of [Syed Ali Shah] Geelani, Mirwaiz [Umar Farooq], Shabir Shah and Yaseen Malik,” he said.

Raina claimed they were instigating Kashmiri children to throw stones while their children lived in Europe. He alleged the separatist leaders were responsible for orchestrating killings