Srinagar/New Delhi, Feb 13: The security cover of four former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers has been scaled down further with the Union Territory administration’s decision to stop deployment of jammers and ambulances during their movement within Srinagar district, according to officials.
On Saturday, veteran politician and Lok Sabha member Farooq Abdullah, was seen offering prayers at the famous Hazratbal shrine and Dasgeer Saab in downtown Srinagar but there was neither an ambulance nor were there jammers, which, among other things, also blocks signals in cases where terrorists have planted an improvised explosive device that can be triggered by remote control. The ambulance is provided to attend to medical emergencies during travel.
However, the officials, said during inter-district movement of former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti jammers and ambulances will continue to be deployed.
This comes in the wake of the recent decision to downsize the Special Security Group (SSG), which had been created under a law enacted by the assembly of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir for protection of chief ministers and former chief ministers.
Subsequently, the SSG cover for the four former chief ministers was withdrawn and their protection entrusted to the security wing of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, which will be backed by central armed paramilitary forces.
Queries to the Jammu and Kashmir Police on the subject elicited no formal response.
The move comes at a time when Srinagar city has been witnessing terrorist-related violence since last year.
Many encounters between security forces and militants have taken place within the city’s limits besides some targeted killings of civilians being carried out by the The Resistance Front, a shadow group of the banned terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration had withdrawn SSG protection after it was decided to downsize the elite unit established in 2000.
This move came over 19 months after the Centre issued a gazette notification Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020, on March 31, 2020, under which it amended the Special Security Group Act of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir government by omitting a clause that provided former chief ministers and their families with SSG cover.
The officials said the SSG was in the process of being “right-sized” by reducing number of personnel in the elite force to “bare minimum” and that it will be headed by an officer below the rank of superintendent of police as against a director, who is in the rank of an inspector general of police or above.
The SSG has now been entrusted with the security of serving chief ministers and their immediate family members.
The decision entailed withdrawal of security cover of National Conference leaders Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, PDP chief Mehbooba and Congress leader Azad at a time when a number of terror incidents have taken place in Srinagar where all of them except Azad reside.
Farooq Abdullah and Azad, however, will continue to be provided National Security Guard cover, whose personnel are known as Black Cat commandos, as both have been categorised as Z-plus protectees.
Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba also continue to have Z-plus security cover while in Jammu and Kashmir but are likely to have a reduced security outside the Union Territory.
The security to the leaders would be provided by the district police as well as the security wing based on threat assessment, the officials said.
Some of the SSG personnel would be posted with the security wing of the Jammu and Kashmir Police for a “close protection team”.
The officials said that remaining personnel of the SSG are likely to be posted to other wings so that the police force could make best use of their training and knowledge.
The vehicles and other gadgets have been transferred to the police’s security wing.–(PTI)