The Special Protection Group (SPG) celebrated 25 years of its formation on March 30. Prior to 1947, executive powers were vested in the viceroy and the governors. As they represented the British, they faced threats from revolutionaries. The then Central Intelligence Bureau monitored those threats and periodically issued advisories to the provinces.
After Independence, it became necessary to protect PM Jawaharlal Nehru from crowds. The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi brought home the fact that popularity was no protective shield. Nehru was allergic to the presence of uniformed policemen. So, security personnel were deployed in plainclothes. The responsibility for the protection of the PM continued to remain with the states and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was made responsible for coordination. The system stood well, and during Nehru’s tenure, there was one solitary attempt to harm him by a man in Nagpur in May 1955.
The initial years of Indira Gandhi’s tenure were marked by no serious security problems. It was later that there were unsavoury incidents that happened in some states. To assist the local police and to coordinate arrangements, the IB started to send one of its experts in advance to the places of the PM’s visit.
In the 1970s, threats to the PM’s security increased with separatism, insurgency and militancy. Despite precautions, Ms Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 by her own guards. A committee was formed to review all arrangements and it recommended the creation of an elite organisation to take care of the “proximate protection of the prime minister” and overall coordination of security arrangements. An Act of Parliament was enacted and the SPG was born in 1985.
In a nation of a billion-plus, it is not humanly possible to identify people who may harm the PM. Precise intelligence is, on most occasions, an elusive commodity. Hence, security authorities work on the principles of denying access to “unknown or unvouchsafed persons and distance-keeping”.
The SPG has been evolving its strategy and tactics and upgrading its equipment constantly to keep ahead of the adversary. And it firmly believes in its motto: The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.
S Subramanian is the Founder Director of the SPG
The views expressed by the author are personal