November 2002 News

SOG: Nothing official about it

18 November 2002
The Indian Express
Arun Sharma

Jammu: J-K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed has made at least one election promise he will find technically impossible to fulfill. The 3,000-strong Special Operations Group (SOG) that his party wants to disband exists on the ground but is not down on paper. Senior officials said there are no formal government orders regarding the formation of the SOG. The group does not exist in the official records. Its members are posted either in the executive or armed wing of the state police. ‘‘So who will they (government) disband? The SOG draws salary against posts in their basic units either in the executive or armed wings of J-K police,’’ a senior police officer said. P.S. Gill, Additional DGP (law and order) who heads the SOG, said he was not sure if the force exists on paper. ‘‘Check it up with the police headquarters,’’ he said. Additional DGP (personnel) Rajan Bakshi confirmed that the SOG is made up of regular policemen. ‘‘Formal government orders are not required as the SOG was drawn from various wings of the state police for a particular job — counter-insurgency operations,’’ he said. The SOG was born in 1994 in the office of then DGP M.N. Sabberwal. For eight years, crores of rupees have gone from the Secret Service Fund to this force. A force that is famous for wiping out militants and equally infamous for alleged custodial deaths and fake encounters. The force has picked up hundreds of people on charges of militancy and registered over 400 cases under POTA in the last one year, officials said. Senior officials said policemen can be drawn from various agencies but only after orders from the district SP concerned or a formal government sanction. The SOG enjoys sweeping powers in J-K. Since it does not report to the district SP or range DIG, they have formed their own groups (District Operation Group and Range Operation Group) for counter-insurgency. The SOG is often blamed in J-K for one of the blots on counter-insurgency operations that will never fade away. Five men gunned down and shown as militants responsible for the massacre of 35 Sikhs in Chittisinghpora two years ago were found to be innocent villagers. The fake encounter was confirmed after public pressure forced the Farooq Abdullah government to exhume the bodies and order a DNA test. In another counter-insurgency case, a police sub-inspector was killed in Surankote three years ago and claimed dead in an encounter with militants. A departmental inquiry revealed he was killed by his SP.


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