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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 13:45 GMT
Protection for Kashmir separatists
Kashmiri separatists
The level of threat to separatist leaders was reassessed
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By Altaf Hussain
BBC correspondent in Srinagar
line

The government in Indian-administered Kashmir says it will continue to provide protection to separatist political leaders - despite criticism from pro-India groups.


It is the responsibility of the state to protect lives of vulnerable citizen who are under a veritable threat to their lives

Kashmir Home Minister Khalid Najeeb Suhrawardi
The state's junior home minister, Khalid Najeeb Suhrawardi, told the law-making assembly that the government had provided protection to six leaders of the main separatist alliance, the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC).

Among them are five members of the APHC's executive council, including the chairman, Abdul Gani Bhat.

Maximum security has been provided to a former chairman, Umar Farooq, who has been placed in the same category that government ministers are placed in.

Mr Farooq has four personal security officers (PSOs) and 14 residential guards.

The other leaders have five residential guards and one or two PSOs each.

Security criticised

Mr Suhrawardi says the APHC leaders are being provided security after the level of threat to their lives was reassessed.

He said the APHC is a conglomerate of two dozen secessionist parties.

But he justifies police protection for them saying: "in a country wedded to the rule of law, it is the responsibility of the state to protect lives of vulnerable citizen who are under a veritable threat to their lives from any quarters."

The government has on many occasions faced criticism from mainstream or pro-India opposition parties for providing security to the APHC leaders.

The APHC leaders, who have accepted this police protection, have at times drawn flak from their colleagues in the alliance itself.

'Threats'

The APHC leaders were themselves not available for comment.

Indian soldier checking handcart
A security check in the capital, Srinagar
However, Abdul Gani Lone's son, Bilal, told the BBC that his father and the other leaders face threats from various quarters.

He says Indian security forces were responsible for a landmine explosion outside Mr Lone's house in 1997, while other attacks were also carried out by unknown persons.

However, a leader of the JKLF (Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front), Javed Mir, disagrees.

He says leaders of his party have refused the offer of police protection.

See also:

18 Mar 02 | South Asia
Vajpayee says Kashmir 'improved'
12 Feb 02 | South Asia
Kashmir separatists announce poll move
02 Nov 01 | South Asia
Kashmiri separatist leader attacked
27 Sep 01 | South Asia
Security fears for Kashmir separatists
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