The distinction lies in the Pakistan-sponsored terror assault on Parliament on December 13, 2001, and the infiltration into the recently constructed Parliament building by miscreants on December 13, 2023. This time, the wrongdoers successfully penetrated the virtual core of Parliament amid the Lok Sabha proceedings. This elevates the gravity of the incident compared to 2001, where terrorists failed to breach the building.
The year 2001 saw terrorists being fortuitously intercepted by an alert security officer in charge of the Vice-President’s escort vehicle. In contrast, on December 13, the security staff was blissfully unaware of the intruders’ presence, shifting the responsibility of resistance onto the MPs. Notably, the security personnel remained undetected when the miscreants began spraying gas from canisters concealed in their shoes.
The intruders also appeared to exploit the layout of the complex, effortlessly leaping from the visitors’ gallery into the Lok Sabha hall. The proximity between the gallery and the hall seems diminished in the new building, as suggested by statements from some MPs right after the incident. Additionally, they pointed out that the new system of a single access point for entry into the building, as opposed to the three or four entry points in the old structure, seemed to strain the security apparatus.
That might have been the reason why the miscreants managed to conceal canisters in their shoes, despite the extensively praised five-tier security system in the new building. The potential horror becomes unimaginable if they had carried grenades instead of gas canisters. Drawing parallels to the incident at Raj Ghat on October 2, 1986, where VIPs were saved not by their security staff, but by the limitations of an assailant armed only with a primitive muzzle-loading gun, underscores the precarious nature of relying on providence for VIP security, as seen in both instances.
In 2001, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s records, an Ambassador car in white, adorned with a red beacon, penetrated the Parliament complex at approximately 11:30 am. It reached the spot where the Vice-President’s convoy was stationed near Gate No. 11. Occupants in some form of uniform occupied the car. As the escort vehicle obstructed its path, the suspicious ASI in charge of the Vice-President’s escort instructed the car driver to halt.
Instead, the vehicle’s driver maneuvered the car in reverse, attempting to distance itself. In the course of this action, it collided with the Vice-President’s car. The ASI and the Vice-President’s driver sprinted toward the suspicious car, seizing the driver by the collar. Subsequently, five Pakistani terrorists emerged from the vehicle, initiating the placement of wires and detonators.
In the face of danger, the ASI swiftly retaliated, targeting a terrorist’s leg with a precise shot. In a grim response, the terrorist fired back, inflicting a wound to the ASI’s right thigh. This sudden exchange of gunfire acted as a harrowing alarm, summoning the police and elite forces within the Parliament complex. A tumultuous gun battle erupted as the terrorists maneuvered through the gates, unleashing a hail of bullets upon the security forces, who valiantly returned fire in a desperate bid to safeguard the complex.
Then, BJP MP Ram Naik informed the media about the existence of three gates: Gate No. 12, used by the Vice-President, who also serves as the Rajya Sabha chairman; Gate No. 1, the usual entry point for MPs; and Gate No. 5, utilised by the Prime Minister. Despite firing at all three gates, the terrorists were unable to breach the building. This was attributed to the actions of CRPF constable Kamlesh Kumari Yadav, who heroically sealed the main entrance. Tragically, reports indicate that she succumbed to injuries, having been hit by 11 bullets.
The events on December 13 unfolded differently. The entry of the offenders occurred seamlessly. Subsequent to the incident, various complaints surfaced from Opposition members. They highlighted that the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Security remained un-established during the 17th Lok Sabha. Allegations of ‘political bias’ in the issuance of visitor passes were raised, along with concerns about an augmented presence of private security guards purportedly supplanting official parliamentary security guards and Central police forces in the new building.
The new building boasts an iron-clad five-tier security system, officially hailed as foolproof. To gain entry, visitors must navigate through the reception near Rail Bhavan, where their credentials undergo meticulous verification. Before reaching the reception, a dedicated security post on Raisina Road ensures an additional layer of scrutiny. Compliance is a must: electronic gadgets, bags, and wallets find their temporary abode in a designated cloakroom. The screening ritual continues at the reception, with passes scrutinised once more, and a final check waits near the entry gate of the new building. Visitors, categorised by their destination — Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha — undergo thorough checks at two distinct gates. Even before ascending to the visitors’ galleries, another round of scrutiny stands as the last bastion of security.
This audacious security breach, occurring weeks after Sikhs for Justice founder Gurpatwant Singh Pannun’s threat to Air India, underscores a significant lapse in the overall security of our sensitive institutions. Despite the elaborate measures in place, none of this thwarted the determined entry of these intruders. The question looms: Did our security managers presume that only Air India required protection following that threat?
Would any student of terrorism history be aware that terrorists frequently alter tactics to sow confusion? Following the 26/11 attacks in 2008, as we prepared for potential fidayeen strikes, the terrorists, in a surprising turn, reverted to improvised explosive devices, resulting in the loss of 21 lives at three locations in Mumbai in July 2011.
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