Special Group (India)

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Special Group
Special Group insignia
ActiveSince 1981
Allegiance India
TypeSpecial forces[1]
Part ofResearch and Analysis Wing
HeadquartersSarsawa, Uttar Pradesh[4]
Nickname(s)The Mavericks[5]

The Special Group (SG) is the special forces unit of India's foreign intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing, that is tasked to undertake covert operations. The unit is considered to be composed of the most elite soldiers of India and is responsible for conducting 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]



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 composed of commandos from the Sayeret Matkal.[3][6][Note 1]

Security at International summits in 1983[edit]

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]

Operation Sundown[edit]

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 the Counter-Revolutionary Warfare Wing of the British Special Air Service arrived in India to provide advice regarding the plan. Extensive rehearsals were also carried out.[8][9][2]

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]

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

Operation Blue Star[edit]

External image
Two Special Group officers at the Golden Temple during Operation Blue Star.[3] Note the distinctive black uniforms[6] and the damaged structure in the background.

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 British Special Air Service was secretly recruited to provide advice for this plan to the SG,[1] 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]

The Special Group was responsible for the eventual death of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and Shabeg Singh during Operation Blue Star, despite the 1 Para (SF) claiming credit for it.[4] This is associated with the fact that they were shot dead using AK-47 rifles. Such rifles, which were purchased secretly from Europe, were present exclusively with the SG at that time.[4]

Prime Ministerial security till 1985[edit]

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[edit]

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 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[edit]

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[edit]

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

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. There are a total of 4 SG squadrons, with each squadron consisting of four troops. Each troop 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[edit]

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[edit]


  1. ^ Initially, the Special Group contemplated sending its officers to train with the British Special Air Service at the facility located in Hereford; SG made this proposal after its officers visited that facility. However, the Indian government rejected this proposal; SG later decided to stick to its own training facility.[3]


  1. ^ a b c "RAW facilitated Britain's SAS officer's India visit". Hindustan Times. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Special Group: Warriors of stealth". Hindustan Times. 9 February 2014. Archived from the original on 3 October 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Unnithan, Sandeep (30 November 1999). "Operation Bluestar: The league of shadows". India Today. Archived from the original on 3 October 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Close encounters of the covert kind". The Week. 9 October 2016. Archived from the original on 21 August 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  5. ^ "With added emphasis on Special Forces, the army is set to change the face of war". FORCE. 18 March 2019. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Israel's invisible hand behind Operation Blue Star of 1984". India Today. 6 June 2018. Archived from the original on 5 October 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  7. ^ "India takes charge of Non-aligned Movement with uncustomary authority". India Today. 31 March 1983. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d Unnithan, Sandeep. "Indira Gandhi considered secret commando raid before Operation Bluestar". India Today. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  9. ^ a b Swami, Praveen (16 January 2014). "RAW chief consulted MI6 in build-up to Operation Bluestar". Chennai, India: The Hindu. Archived from the original on 6 January 2019. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  10. ^ a b Gill, K.P.S. and Khosla, S (2017). Punjab: The Enemies Within : Travails of a Wounded Land Riddled with Toxins. Excerpt: Bookwise (India) Pvt. Limited. ISBN 9788187330660.CS1 maint: location (link)
  11. ^ Singh, Parmjeet (February 2014). "Operation Sundown – Plan to abduct Sant Bhindranwale from Guru Nanak Niwas in Dec. 1983 – More chapters of black history of India coming into light". Sikh Siyasat News. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  12. ^ Gupte, Pranay (8 September 1985). "The Punjab: Torn by Terror". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  13. ^ Dogra, Chander Suta (10 June 2013). "Operation Blue Star — the untold story". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  14. ^ "India Golden Temple: UK investigates 'SAS link' to attack". British Broadcasting Corporation. 14 January 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  15. ^ a b "FACTBOX-India's role in Sri Lanka's civil war". Reuters. 17 October 2008. Archived from the original on 28 November 2018. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  16. ^ a b "RAW chief Rajinder Khanna to hold charge of DG Security". The Economic Times. 21 March 2015. Archived from the original on 6 October 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019.

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