The Jammu and Kashmir administration has decided that former chief ministers of the erstwhile state and their family members will no longer be entitled to protection by the police’s Special Security Group, The Indian Express reported on Friday, citing an official order.

The Home Department of the Union Territory has issued an order to implement a recommendation by the Security Review and Coordination Committee to downsize the Special Security Group, an elite unit of the police force, to the “bare minimum”.

The move will affect security covers provided to National Conference leaders Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah, Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti and Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad.

The Jammu and Kashmir Special Security Group Act had been amended after the special status of the erstwhile state was abrogated in August 2019. Under the new provisions that came into effect in March, only sitting chief ministers and their immediate family members will be eligible for protection by the Special Security Group, PTI reported, citing unidentified officials.

Jammu and Kashmir does not have a chief minister currently as it was stripped of statehood after the abrogation of its special status.

However, Farooq Abdullah and Azad will continue to receive security cover of the National Security Guard as both of them are Z-plus protectees. Omar Abdullah and Mufti will receive Z-plus protection in Jammu and Kashmir, but will have their security reduced outside the Union Territory, according to PTI.

The government’s order said that a “suitable number of personnel” will be posted in the security wing of the Jammu and Kashmir Police Close Protection Team. “Post the remaining SSG personnel to other wings to make best use of their knowledge/ training/ expertise,” it added. “All the resources [including vehicles, access control gadgets etc] of the SSG be transferred to the security wing.”

‘Political decision’

The Peoples Democratic Party criticised the move, saying that the Centre “did not care about the lives of the people” in Jammu and Kashmir.

The party also referred to the alleged security breach during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Punjab on Wednesday. “Compare that to the situation here, there are attacks, targeted killings,” it said. “But be as it may, it is not going to deter us from speaking for the people.”

Omar Abdullah said that he was not informed about the development, NDTV reported. “The decision is clearly political and a response to our increased political activities,” he added.