In a major step, the Jammu and Kashmir government late on Wednesday evening downgraded and withdrew the security of 18 separatists.

These Hurriyat leaders include Syed Alishah Geelani and Yasin Malik who were left out when security cover of five separatists was withdrawn earlier this week.

According to a 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.

Among the leaders whose security has been downgraded and withdrawn are SAS Geelani, Aga Syed Mosvi, Maulvi Abbas Ansari, Yaseen Malik, Saleem Geelani, Shahid ul Islam, Zaffar Akbar Bhat, Nayeem Ahmed Khan, Mukhtar Ahmad Waza,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.

In addition, the security of 155 political persons and activists, who did not require the security provided to them based on their threat assessment and their activities, was also withdrawn. This includes Shah Faesal, who resigned from the IAS and Wahid Parray.

Through this, over 1000 police personnel and over 100 vehicles were freed to do regular police work.

The security cover of five senior separatist leaders — Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Lone, Hashim Qureshi and Shabir Shah was already withdrawn on Sunday.

In a major step taken in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack, the Centre on Sunday withdrew the security cover of five top separatists. The decision comes two days after Home Minister Rajnath Singh slammed “those who take money from Pakistan to create unrest in Kashmir”.

The Hurriyat leaders reacted to the move calling it a “propaganda gimmick” while adding that they “do not need it”.

Read | ‘Don’t need it, won’t change stand’: Separatists as Govt scraps security after Pulwama killings

Earlier, questions were raised on why Geelani — who is under house arrest — being allowed almost daily, to issue anti-India and anti-security forces statements. He was also allowed to address through phone the gatherings at the funeral of terrorists killed in encounters with security forces.

Clarifying why Geelani’s name was not on the list, a police officer had said that Geelani was under house arrest and as such no security was provided to him on an individual basis.

According to the order, no security forces or cover will be provided, under any pretext, to the five separatists or any other separatist. Other facilities like vehicles provided to the separatists also stand withdrawn.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, during his visit to Srinagar a day after the Pulwama attack had said security given to people getting funds from Pakistan and its snooping agency ISI should be reviewed.

Without naming the Valley-based Hurriyat leaders and those indulging in anti-India activities, the Home Minister said there are some elements who are hand-in-glove with terror organisations and ISI in Pakistan.

“They are involved in terror conspiracies and as such are playing with the future of the people and especially the youth of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

“The security cover provided to such elements will be reviewed,” he had announced.

According to official figures, a sum of Rs 10.37 crores was spent on the salary of security men of various separatists between 2008 to 2017. Another Rs 49 lakh was spent on the fuel of vehicles escorting them.

The three top separatists, Syed Alishah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yaseen Malik have been keeping the pot boiling in Kashmir by issuing statements against India and the security forces. The demand to withdraw their security cover has been raised from time to time.

Over 44 CRPF personnel were killed and many injured on Thursday in one of the deadliest terror strikes in Jammu-Kashmir when a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide bomber blew up an explosive-laden vehicle near their bus in Pulwama district.

The bus was part of a convoy of 78 vehicles carrying around 2500 CRPF personnel from Jammu to Srinagar.