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Citing threat, officials seek upgrade of Mohan Bhagwat’s security

Bhagwat currently enjoys Z-plus security cover, the third highest after SPG and NSG, with over 60 CISF commandos deployed round the clock to protect him. (PTI)

Ahead of the 2019 general elections, a security audit carried out by Central and state agencies on threat perception to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat has recommended upgrading his security cover to Black Cat commandos of the National Security Guard (NSG).

Bhagwat currently enjoys Z-plus security cover, the third highest after SPG and NSG, with over 60 CISF commandos deployed round the clock to protect him.

While intelligence agencies have cited heightened security risk to Bhagwat, officials at North Block said they were still evaluating these reports and a decision on Bhagwat’s security would be taken soon.

Officials pointed to instances when Bhagwat’s security was breached during the recent elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The threat assessment is also believed to have analysed alleged plots by modules in India of the Al-Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and the Islamic State (IS) to carry out attacks against right-wing leaders, particularly those of the RSS and BJP.

The NIA, which is probing the alleged plot against right-wing leaders, recently arrested 10 youths in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

Last year, in Punjab, the Congress government had unearthed an alleged plot by the Pakistan-based ISI to carry out killings of RSS leaders in the state. In 2017, two unidentified motorcycle-borne assailants in Ludhiana shot dead 60-year-old RSS leader Ravinder Gosain. Earlier, RSS leader Brig Jagdish Gagneja (tetd) was shot at in Jalandhar. He later died at DMC Hospital in Ludhiana.

Recently, the Tamil Nadu police arrested six youths on suspicion that they owed their allegiance to the Islamic State and alleged that they were planning to target right-wing leaders in the state.

Sources said that as part of Bhagwat’s security upgrade, a proposal is being examined whether to include an advance security liaison (ASL) or replace it with NSG commandos.

Incidentally, the NSG had expressed its reservations over taking on VVIP security and, instead, sought a pro-active role in counter-terror operations. Earlier this year, NSG commandos were deployed in Jammu and Kashmir to carry out anti-terror operations with the Army and local police. An ASL helps security forces, local police and intelligence sleuths carry out an advanced security drill each time the VIP protectee is travelling. Earlier, Bhagwat was guarded by an armed squad of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) during his stay at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur and when he traveled to any place in Maharashtra and across the country.

In 2017, the Home Ministry had decided to gradually relieve CRPF and ITBP from VVIP duty and engage the CISF and NSG for this work. However, the move was opposed by CRPF and ITBP on the grounds that this was the only time their personnel got “soft postings.”

At present, there are as many as 11 NSG protectees, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh, UP ex-CMs Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, veteran BJP leader L K Advani and former Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh.

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