Curfew in Jammu 3rd day; but clashes, stone-pelting incidents continue.
Srinagar: The security cover of five top separatist leaders, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was withdrawn by the Jammu and Kashmir authorities on Sunday, a decision that comes in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack where over 40 CRPF personnel were killed, officials said. Their security was withdrawn with immediate effect, an official said.
Earlier, the J&K government had issued a formal order saying that all security personnel and vehicles provided to the separatists will stand withdrawn by Sunday evening. No security forces or cover will be provided, under any pretext, to them or any other separatists, officials said.
They also said that other facilities, if any, provided by the government to these leaders would also be withdrawn forthwith.
Besides the Mirwaiz, the security cover to Hurriyat Conference (Mirwaiz) leaders Prof. Abdul Gani Butt and Bilal Gani Lone, J&K Democratic Freedom Party leader Shabir Ahmed Shah and Jammu Kashmir Democratic Liberation Party chairman Muhammad Hashim Qureshi has also been withdrawn, the order said.
Jammu city continued, meanwhile, to reel under curfew for the third consecutive day Sunday. The state’s winter capital was brought under indefinite curfew and the police and paramilitary personnel were fanned out in the city on Friday to enforce it after incidents of arson and attacks on the members of Muslim community during a bandh called by Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry against the “massacre” of CRPF jawans in the Pulwama suicide attack.
Mr Qureshi had along with his cousin Ashraf Qureshi hijacked an Indian Airlines Fokker Friendship aircraft (Ganga) on January 30, 1971 en route from Srinagar to Jammu and took it to Lahore. After heading the Pakistan and “Azad Kashmir” chapter of the pro-independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front for several years, he migrated to the Netherlands, and after spending over a decade there returned to India.
The officials said the police will review if there are any other separatist leaders who have security or any other government-provided facilities, which will be withdrawn immediately as well.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh had during his visit to Srinagar on Friday said that security given to people getting funds from Pakistan and its intelligence agency ISI should be reviewed. “Some elements in Jammu and Kashmir have links with the ISI and terrorist organisations. Their security should be reviewed,” he had said, after reviewing security in the aftermath of a suicide attack in which 49 CRPF personnel were killed and several others injured.
Reacting to the official announcement that Shabir Shah was among the separatist leaders whose security cover had been withdrawn, a spokesman of his party said: “It is ridiculous. He has been incarcerated in Delhi’s Tihar jail for more than 20 months now.” His wife Dr Bilqees Shah said: “I’m married to Shah Sahib for the last 22 years. I’ve never seen any security cover provided to him. He was offered it a couple of times, but he refused to accept it.”
The Mirwaiz said he had never asked for security and that its withdrawal would not make any difference to him. “After my father was assassinated, some police officials visited our home to say that I am being provided security cover by the government. When I told them that I don’t need it, they said the decision has to be taken by the government and not by me,” he told this newspaper.
He added that the withdrawal of security cover to him would not stop him from asking for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute as per the wishes and aspirations of its people, nor can it lead to any curtailment of his engagements as religious and political leader. “It will have no bearing on my daily routine,” he said.
A statement issued by the Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat Conference said: “The government and its propagandist anti-Kashmir media had repeatedly been racking up the issue of police personnel having been provided to the resistance leadership to politicise the issue, knowing fully well that it has no bearing nor can it in any way change the reality of the lingering Kashmir dispute or the situation on ground or affect our principled stand and outlook regarding its resolution”.
The statement said the Hurriyat leaders had never asked for security. “In fact, it was the government that insisted on posting police personnel at their respective residences based on what they said was their assessment of the threat perception. It was the government’s decision at that time to provide security and it is now its decision to withdraw it. It’s not an issue for us”.
Meanwhile, a report from Jammu said that while curfew continued in force, there were stone-pelting incidents and clashes in at least three areas of the city overnight. At places, rival crowds confronted each other by chanting slogans. A police official said the crowds raised provocative slogans adding to the existing tension. An official spokesman in Jammu said that protests were held on Saturday evening in the city’s Nai Basti, Bantalab, Domana and Parade Ground areas, “but the situation was quickly brought under control”. The Army has held flag marches in some areas of Jammu and heightened security at some other sensitive places to help the police and Central armed forces maintain law and order.