February 20, 2019 / 7:23 PM / 9 months ago

India withdraws security for Kashmir separatist leaders

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India’s Jammu and Kashmir state withdrew the security details for 18 separatist leaders and 155 other opposition figures on Wednesday after an Islamist suicide bomber killed 40 paramilitary troopers last week.

The restive mountain state is currently administered by India’s federal government after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party walked out a coalition with a major Kashmiri party.

The separatist leaders had been allocated security personnel to protect them from militants after they entered talks with the federal government.

In a statement, the Jammu and Kashmir state government said it “felt that providing security to these separatist leaders is a wastage of scarce state resources which could be better utilized elsewhere”.

Besides the separatist leaders, the security of 155 political figures and activists - some from mainstream opposition parties - was also withdrawn, the statement said.

“Through this (step), over 1,000 police personnel and over 100 vehicles are freed to do regular police work,” it said.

Both India and Pakistan lay claim to Kashmir and have twice gone to war over it since independence from Britain in 1947. India accuses Pakistan of fomenting decades of sporadic insurgency in its only Muslim-majority state.

Pakistan denies that, saying it only offers political support to the Kashmiri people.

Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari; Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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