It is ironic that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a Sikh, has no brethren from his own community detailed in the security cordon around him. Officials of the Special Protection Group (SPG), established in 1984 for providing security to prime ministers, have ensured that neither Sikhs or Muslims are employed as bodyguards to VVIPs .
Sources in the security set-up confirm there exists an unwritten code which is complied with diligently. Points out an official: "When it comes to VVIP security, we cannot take any chances, especially since the country has lost two of its prime ministers to brutal killings. Proximate security is the last defence, and if that is weak, how can we ensure safety of the person we’ve to protect?"
As far as Sikhs go, Indira Gandhi’s killing and militancy in Punjab put an end to them being recruited as securitymen. Much has changed since then but the community continues to be on the blacklist. Notes a senior official in the security set-up: "It has become an established thing. To change it, someone will have stick his neck out. And if something goes wrong he will have to answer for it. Nobody is willing to take any chances." The same line of thinking holds true for Muslims. As long as terrorism from across the border does not cease, members of the community will be under a cloud. Home ministry officials say with terror strikes across the country being linked to Islamic terrorism it would be a " big risk" to put a Muslim on VVIP security.
However, since no government organisation can bar persons of any particular community the SPG does employ a few Muslims and Sikhs. But they are kept off personal security. Reveals an official: "A 3000-strong organisation like the SPG does have Muslims and Sikhs. But we ensure that they are not deployed in sensitive posts. They are posted in the administration or intelligence"
The situation is not very different in the National Security Guard (NSG)—the other force which provides security to vips. The NSG was set up in 1984 after Operation Bluestar when the Indian army stormed the Golden Temple to flush out Sikh militants. The need was felt for creating a special force to conduct counter-terrorist operations with greater efficiency. The NSG was first deployed to combat insurgency in Punjab. But it evolved into an anti-terrorist unit with operations in J&K and other parts of the country. And it does not have any Sikh or Muslim as bodyguards.
Over the years, its elite Black Cat commandos have also been saddled with providing security to VVIPs, other than prime ministers (present and former) and their kin. They include political leaders like former deputy PM L.K. Advani, UP CM Mulayam Singh Yadav, BSP chief Mayawati and former Tamil Nadu CM J. Jayalalitha. But none of them will be a Sikh or a Muslim.