Special Group (India)

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Special Group
SG Bagde and Sleeve Tab (cropped).jpg
Special Group insignia
ActiveSince 1981
AllegianceFlag of India.svg  India
Type Special forces [1]
Part of Research and Analysis Wing
Headquarters Sarsawa, Uttar Pradesh [4]
Nickname(s)The Mavericks [5]

The Special Group (SG) is the special forces unit of India's Research and Analysis Wing which is tasked to undertake covert operations. The unit is considered to be comprised of the most elite soldiers of India and is responsible for conducting such operations with which the Government of India may not wish to be overtly associated. [4] [2] Since the unit is confidential in nature, most of the information about its activities is highly classified. [2] [3] [4]

Special forces Military units trained to conduct special operations

Special forces and special operations forces (SOF) are military units trained to conduct special operations. NATO has defined special operations as "military activities conducted by specially designated, organized, trained, and equipped forces, manned with selected personnel, using unconventional tactics, techniques, and modes of employment".

Research and Analysis Wing Indian external intelligence agency

The Research and Analysis Wing is the foreign intelligence agency of India. It was established in 1968 following the intelligence failures of the Sino-Indian War, which persuaded the Government of India to create a specialised, independent agency dedicated to foreign intelligence gathering; previously, both domestic and foreign intelligence had been the purview of the Intelligence Bureau.

A covert operation is a military operation intended to conceal the identity of the sponsor and intended to create a political effect which can have implications in the military, intelligence or law enforcement arenas—affecting either the internal population of a country or individuals outside it.




The Special Group was created in 1981 as a classified unit of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) tasked for undertaking covert operations. [2] [6] The Directorate General of Security, [2] which was a confidential organisation created with assistance from the CIA after the Sino-Indian War of 1962, went under control of RAW in 1968. In 1982, Project Sunray was initiated by the Directorate, under which an officer from the Para SF of the Indian Army was tasked to raise a unit comprising 250 personnel. [3] In early 1983, a group of six personnel were sent to a confidential military base in Israel. [3] There they received training from a specialist team of Mossad for a few weeks. [6] This team, which had earlier rescued hostages from Uganda's Entebbe airport with some assistance from RAW, was comprised of commandos from the Sayeret Matkal. [3] [6]

Sino-Indian War conflict

The Sino-Indian War, also known as the Indo-China War and Sino-Indian Border Conflict, was a war between China and India that occurred in 1962. A disputed Himalayan border was the main pretext for war, but other issues played a role. There had been a series of violent border incidents after the 1959 Tibetan uprising, when India had granted asylum to the Dalai Lama. India initiated a Forward Policy in which it placed outposts along the border, including several north of the McMahon Line, the eastern portion of the Line of Actual Control proclaimed by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1959.

Indian Army Land based branch of the Indian Armed Forces

The Indian Army is the land-based branch and the largest component of the Indian Armed Forces. The President of India is the Supreme Commander of the Indian Army, and it is commanded by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), who is a four-star general. Two officers have been conferred with the rank of field marshal, a five-star rank, which is a ceremonial position of great honour. The Indian Army originated from the armies of the East India Company, which eventually became the British Indian Army, and the armies of the princely states, which finally became the national army after independence. The units and regiments of the Indian Army have diverse histories and have participated in a number of battles and campaigns across the world, earning many battle and theatre honours before and after Independence.

Israel country in the Middle East

Israel, also known as the State of Israel, is a country in Western Asia, located on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea. It has land borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan on the east, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the east and west, respectively, and Egypt to the southwest. The country contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. Israel's economic and technological center is Tel Aviv, while its seat of government and proclaimed capital is Jerusalem, although the state's sovereignty over Jerusalem has only partial recognition.

Security at International summits in 1983

The Non-Aligned Movement summit and Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1983 was conducted under the direct vigil of the SG to prevent any untoward event. [3] The Non-Aligned summit was particularly important since it would cement India's position as the leader of the movement. [7]

Non-Aligned Movement group of states which are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is a forum of 120 developing world states that are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. After the United Nations, it is the largest grouping of states worldwide.

Operation Sundown

Operation Sundown was the code name of a covert plan in which the Special Group was to abduct Sikh extremist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale from Guru Nanak Niwas in the Golden Temple complex, Amritsar. [8] A unit was formed to prepare for Operation Sundown in the Sarsawa Air Force Base in Uttar Pradesh. [8] In December 1983, an officer from Britain's Special Air Service arrived in India to provide advice regarding the plan. Extensive rehearsals were also carried out. [8] [9]

Operation Sundown was codename of a covert plan of India's external intelligence agency Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), in which the Special Group, which is an ultra-secretive armed unit of the R&AW, was to abduct Sikh extremist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale from Guru Nanak Niwas in the Golden Temple complex, Amritsar. A R&AW unit was formed to rehearse Operation Sundown in the Sarsawa Air Force Base in Uttar Pradesh.

Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was a militant leader of the Sikh organization Damdami Taksal. He gained prominence due to his involvement in the 1978 Sikh-Nirankari clash. He symbolized the revivalist, extremist and terrorist movement in Punjab. In 1983, to escape arrest, he along with his militant cadre occupied and fortified the Sikh shrine Akal Takht. Operation Blue Star was launched to remove him and the armed militants from the Golden Temple complex.

Golden Temple Temple in Amritsar, India; the most sacred site in Sikhism

The Golden Temple, also known as Harmandir Sahib, meaning "abode of God" or Darbār Sahib, meaning "exalted court", is a Gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. It is the holiest Gurdwara and the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism.

The operation was never started due to the then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi's rejection on religious grounds; the operation may have hurt the religious sentiments of the Sikh people. In addition there was a risk of numerous civilian casualties as a collateral damage of the operation. [10] [8]

Prime Minister of India Leader of the executive of the Government of India

The prime minister of India is the leader of the executive of the Government of India. The prime minister is also the chief adviser to the President of India and head of the Council of Ministers. They can be a member of any of the two houses of the Parliament of India—the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha —but has to be a member of the political party or coalition, having a majority in the Lok Sabha.

Indira Gandhi First Lady Prime Minister of India

Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi was an Indian politician, stateswoman and a central figure of the Indian National Congress. She was the first and, to date, the only female Prime Minister of India. Indira Gandhi was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India. She served as Prime Minister from January 1966 to March 1977 and again from January 1980 until her assassination in October 1984, making her the second longest-serving Indian Prime Minister, after her father.

Collateral damage damage to things that are incidental to the intended target

Collateral damage is any death, injury, or other damage inflicted that is an unintended result of military operations.

Other options such as negotiations subsequently failed and the law and order situation in Punjab continued to deteriorate. [10] [9] [11]

Operation Blue Star

By the end of 1983, the security situation in Punjab was worsening due to the erupting separatist militancy. [12] Operation Blue Star was the code name of the Indian military action carried out between 1 and 8 June 1984 to remove militant religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his followers from the buildings of the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) complex in Amritsar, Punjab. [13] A few days before the operation began, the Special Group arrived in Amritsar. [1] The Special Group was tasked to create an executable plan for this. [2]

A senior officer from the Counter-Revolutionary Warfare Wing of the British Special Air Service was secretly recruited to provide advice for this plan to the SG, [1] [2] after being cleared by then British PM Margaret Thatcher. [14] A group of SG personnel clad in black uniforms, armed with AK-47 rifles and Night vision goggles, began the assault on 6 June 1984. [6] AK-47 rifles, which were purchased secretly from Europe, were present exclusively with the SG at that time. [4]

Prime Ministerial security till 1985

In the aftermath of the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, SG personnel provided security to the Prime Minister of India until the creation of the Special Protection Group in 1985. [3]

Black operations

The Special Group has undertaken black operations outside India. [4] In the late 1980s, it rescued a political prisoner in Bangladesh after being ordered to do so by the Prime Minister of India. [4] After a civil war started in the island nation of Sri Lanka in 1983, India used it as an opportunity to curtail foreign influence in the country; India provided training and equipment to the militant groups fighting in the war. [15] The Special Group was involved in providing training assistance to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, [4] the most prominent militant group. [15]

Planned raid near Kahuta nuclear facility

During the 1999 Kargil war, the Indian government had planned a raid near the Kahuta nuclear facility in Pakistan and had asked the Special Group to prepare for it. Ultimately, however, the raid was called off. [4]

Counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir

The Special Group are known to be involved in the ongoing counter-insurgency operations in the Jammu and Kashmir region across the Line of Control. [2] [4]



A diagram showing the command structure of SG Special Group command structure.png
A diagram showing the command structure of SG

The Special Group functions under the Directorate General of Security (DG Security) of Research and Analysis Wing, which is India's foreign intelligence agency. [2] [16] The DG Security also oversees the Office of Special Operations. [16] The unit serves under the command of the Prime Minister through the Cabinet Secretariat. [4] [3]

The SG is primarily based at Chakrata in the state of Uttarakhand and Sarsawa in Uttar Pradesh, where it is headquartered. [2] [4] All of its personnel are from the Indian Army, mostly from the Para (Special Forces). [2] [4] SG personnel are distributed in three to four companies. [2] [3] An SG team is kept on high alert for contingencies round the clock. SG squadrons consist of four soldiers, each of whom has a specialized skill-set. The SG has dedicated branches specialising in intelligence gathering, operational planning, communications and training. [2]


The responsibilities of the Special Group includes clandestine intelligence operations and covert operations, with which the Government of India may not wish to be overtly associated. [2] [3] The SG is also responsible for developing tactics and training procedures for other special forces of India. [2]

Training and equipment

The Special Group is considered to be the most capably trained special forces unit of India and is considered to be very well equipped. [3] [4]

See also

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The Khalistan movement is a Sikh separatist movement seeking to create a separate country called Khalistān in the Punjab region as a homeland for Sikhs. The proposed country would consist of both the Punjab, India along with Punjab, Pakistan and include parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh in Pakistan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Rajasthan.

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Akal Takht gurdwara in Amritsar in India

The Akal Takht, meaning throne of the timeless one, is one of five takhts of the Sikhs. It is located in the Harmandir Sahib complex in Amritsar, Punjab. The Akal Takht was built by Shri Guru Hargobind as a place of justice and consideration of temporal issues; the highest seat of earthly authority of the Khalsa and the place of the Jathedar, the highest spokesman of the Sikhs. The current Jathedar of Akal Takht appointed by the SGPC is Giani Harpreet Singh, while the Sarbat Khalsa calls for the reinstitution of Jagtar Singh Hawara.

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