The withdrawal of security of Hurriyat leaders as a measured response to the Pulwama attack is both a non-issue and a case of missing the woods for the trees. Whether it is inspired by stupidity or simply an eye for the optics to cash in on the Pulwama tragedy for electoral benefits, withdrawal of security will effectively bring no change in the Valley’s situation. It neither has any strategic value nor the potential to intimidate the separatist leaders into silence.
The government of India has taken the step, publicising it as a drastic and major one, as one of the remedial measure to help prevent attacks like Pulwama in future. There is hardly any connect between the Kashmir separatist leaders and Jaish-e-Mohammed whose base is in Pakistan. Unlike the 90s, when separatist leaders wielded some influence on their affiliated militant organs, there is no such evidence to suggest a similar balance of powers in the present scenario. Barring the symbolic connect of both the militants and over-ground separatists representing the alienated constituency of the Valley, there is nothing similar between the two in terms of their cherished goals and ways of functioning. While the militants believe in a violent solution to Kashmir, the separatists bat for an amicable dialogue and a dignified share on the dialogue table. In fact, after the killings of 44 CRPF personnel in Pulwama attack, the Joint Resistance Leadership came out with a statement regretting the killings.
While the militants purely pursue combatant mode to be heard, the separatists are not known to have any direct connection to violent insurgency. The strategic worth of the decision to crackdown on the Hurriyat and other separatist leaders remains nil. It is not known how such a decision can prevent young men from being radicalized or make the security apparatus more alert.
While on the ground such a move is not expected to make any impact, the very decision and its celebratory tone is based on a heap of lies. security is provided by the state to its citizens based on threat perceptions and as a rule cannot be provided or taken away on the basis of whims. Mirwaiz Umar, who enjoys the biggest security paraphernalia among the separatists, is also revered in Kashmir as a prominent religious head. He was given a security cover since his father Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq was killed in 1990 by unknown gunmen. Officials maintain, he was killed by militants. Similar is the case of Bilal Lone, whose father and Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone was killed under similar circumstances as Mirwaiz Farooq. Both have said that they never asked for security. The far more brazen lie appears to be the case of security withdrawal for Shabir Shah. While his aides said that he never enjoyed any security cover, he is presently in jail for over a year. Only the present government will is answerable if he is enjoying any special ring of security inside the prison and special benefits and facilities there. If the move is inspired by the logic of restricting the movement of the separatist leaders, there is little likelihood of their mobility, ideology or work undergoing any change or make them sub-due their stand.
The far bigger thing restricting their mobility at present is continued house-arrests and arrests. The case of senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who has virtually spent the last 9 years inside his house cordoned by a posse of security men to ensure his constant round the clock house arrest is a case in point. Barring Hashim Qureshi, who maintains a low public profile, none of the Hurriyat leaders complained of being exposed to security risks. That they didn’t, doesn’t ward of their vulnerability to attacks. In the Valley, where militancy is seemingly taking a deadly turn and where there is a history of leaders being killed by unknown gunmen, such a move by the government obviously enhances their vulnerability. Is the government ready to take the onus of having withdrawn their security despite the risks they faced in case something happens, in the eventuality of which Kashmir can be pushed into a deeper crisis.