The Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday announced it has withdrawn security cover from 18 Kashmiri separatist leaders. On Sunday, it had removed security of five separatists – Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Shabir Shah, Hashim Qureshi, Bilal Lone and Abdul Ghani Bhat.

The move to withdraw security cover comes a week after 40 Central Reserve Police Force jawans were killed in a suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

“Among the leaders whose security has been downgraded and withdrawn are Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Aga Syed Mosvi, Maulvi Abbas Ansari, Yaseen Malik, Saleem Geelani, Shahid ul Islam, Zaffar Akbar Bhat, Nayeem Ahmed Khan, Mukhtar Ahmad Waza, Farooq Ahmed Kichloo, Masroor Abbas Ansari, Aga Syed Abul Hussain, Abdul Gani Shah and Mohd Musadiq Bhat,” a government press release said. “According to the spokesperson of the Home Department, it was felt that providing security to these separatist leaders is a wastage of scarce state resources which could be better utilised elsewhere.”

The government also announced that it has withdrawn the security provided to 155 other persons and activists, “who did not require the security provided to them based on their threat assessment and their activities”. This includes former Indian Administrative Service officer Shah Faesal and Wahid Parray. “Through this, over 1,000 police personnel and over 100 vehicles are freed to do regular police work,” the statement added.