The Jammu and Kashmir government has spent close to Rs 560 crore for the "maintenance" of Kashmiri separatist leaders in the past five years, according to officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). This huge amount has been spent on their travel and accommodation in Kashmir, their elaborate security cover as well as travel out of the valley and stay in five-star hotels in New Delhi whenever they visit the national capital for talks with government officers and foreign dignitaries.
Sources within the J&K government, who are aware of this, said that close to 1,500 police officers have been deployed at the residences of these separatist leaders to act as their personal security officers (PSOs) and security officers. This privilege has been extended even to other "uncategorized political activists", who have a history of promoting separation of Kashmir from India. According to officials, the amount has been spent from the Security Related Expenditure (SRE), which is provided by the MHA to the state government. Since the inception of the SRE scheme in 1989, the Centre has released Rs 7,207 crore, including Rs 4,735 crore for police expenditure.
"Close to Rs 110 crore is spent on the personal safety, accommodation, flights etc., of the separatist leaders every year. This includes around Rs 5-6 crore for their five-star accommodation in New Delhi and for room rents in luxurious hotels in the valley that have been booked in their names for the past 5-6 years. Around 500 PSOs and 950 security guards from the J&K police are also deployed to protect approximately 600 separatist leaders and other private individuals from terrorist attacks. This information has been regularly shared with successive Central governments," an official with the state government said.
Such measures were required to keep the separatists in good humour, the official said. "This kid glove treatment of the separatists has been the practice for long and rather than blaming the state government, of all, the blame should be on the Union government," he added.
Some of the anti-nationals who enjoy this patronage include Hashim Qureshi, who hijacked an Indian Airlines aircraft in 1971 and took it to Pakistan; Salim Geelani; Zafar Akbar Bhat, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Salvation Movement; Shahid-ul-Islam' Mirwaiz Umar Farooq; Bilal Gani Lone; Aga Syed Hassan; Maulana Abbas Ansari; Mussadiq Adil; Abdul Gani Bhat; and Mukhtar Ahmad Waza, who is one of the strongest critics of the Indian government.
Officials in the security establishment and politicians have criticised successive governments for giving undue importance to the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), which claims to be the representative of the Kashmiri voice. According to them, the APHC has a nuisance value at the most, which the separatist forces use to market the political body as the "true voice" of the Kashmiris.
"The government should realise that the separatists have little following on the ground. They have continuously given calls for poll boycott, but did that stop the common people from coming out to vote? At the most, they have a nuisance value, they can create noise and disrupt peace in the valley for a short period, but they cannot be treated as the voice of the Kashmiris. However, this is what successive governments have been doing. The UPA used to do it and now the NDA government is doing it, treating the separatists softly," a prominent Congress leader from Jammu and Kashmir said.