Four former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir will no longer be guarded by the elite Special Security Group (SSG) as their cover has been downgraded, according to sources. Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar, Mehbooba Mufti and Ghulam Nabi Azad will now be tailed by sleuths from the security wing of the J&K Police. “The head of the security wing will take a call on their security detail based on their threat assessment," official sources said.

The development comes about 19 months after the Centre issued a gazette notification — Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020 — on March 31, 2020, amending the Special Security Group Act of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir government by removing a clause that provided former chief ministers and their families with SSG security.

According to sources, the security of the former CMs has been both downgraded and downsized by the government as members from the security wing will replace the SSG men who have essentially a higher level of commando training, on the lines of the Special Protection Group (SPG) personnel who guard the Prime Minister.

Farooq Abdullah and Azad though will continue to be provided the security cover of the National Security Guard as both are Z-plus protectees. Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba will continue to have Z-plus security cover while in Jammu and Kashmir but are likely to have reduced security outside the union territory.

Sources say the SSG, which was carved out exclusively for VVIP security in the erstwhile state, will continue to function and secure dignitaries like ministers and high-profile guests who come to visit J&K from time to time. Officials said the SSG won’t be disbanded because it is there by virtue of a legislative act, passed in the year 2000 though it was set up in 1996 by the Farooq Abdullah government. However, the strength of the force would be reduced by 65 per cent. The SSG would be now headed by a DSP-rank officer. According to a government communique accessed by News18, the resources including vehicles and access control gadgets would be transferred to the security wing.

“Once a new chief minister is elected after a fresh assembly election, the SSG will again be entrusted with his/her security," said an official privy to the development. The assembly was dissolved in November 2018 soon after the BJP pulled out of the coalition government led by the PDP.

Sources say the decision on the number of personnel or vehicles to be deployed for the former CMs or their residences will now be made by the head of the security wing based on the threat assessment.

It has been learnt that even the Close Protection Team (CPT) will come from the security wing.

With over 100 personnel, the SSG has been headed by an Inspector General or DIG-rank official in the past. All its men have commando training.

In 2018, the-then state administrative council had approved a bill setting up a separate force called Special Security Force (SSF) for providing protection to the governor. J&K lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha is secured by the SSF that picked up sleuths from the SSG.