This article is written by Saswata Tewari from the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun. This article talks in detail about the Parliament attack that took place on 13th December 2001 and how India has developed its security management and anti-terrorism laws ever since.
Indian democracy faced a major blowback in the year 2001. The whole nation was shocked seeing the terrorists running around the Parliament in broad daylight. Total chaos had descended on the morning of 13th December 2001. There were at least 100 members of the Parliament present at the time, although no one was hurt.
Background of the whole situation
There was a lot of evidence that shows that eight-month planning went into the Parliament attack. All the five terrorists had allegiance to terrorist organizations Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad who were the masterminds and sponsors of the Parliament attack. Twelve people were named as being part of the Parliament attack conspiracy:
- Ghazi Baba
- Maulana Masood Azhar
- Tariq Ahmed
- five deceased terrorists namely Hamza, Haider, Rana, Ranvijay, and Mohammed
- S.A.R. Geelani
- Shaukat Hussain Guru
- Mohammed Afzal
- Afsan Guru
- Mohammed Afzal Guru was the main conspirator of the Parliament attack. He was the link between the five attackers and the terrorist groups.
- Mohammed, one of the five terrorists, was from Punjab in Pakistan and was called the ‘Burger’. Just before the attack, he called up a number in Saudi Arabia, which is suspected to be the Jaish-e-Mohammed masters and financiers.
- It has been seen that the five terrorists communicated with the Jaish-e-Mohammed throughout the night of 12th and 13th December.
- In October 2001, Afzal fixed up rooms for Mohammed and Haider in Christian Colony in North Delhi, just a kilometre away from his house in Mukherjee Nagar. He even fixed rooms for the other three. They were also given fake identity cards of the Cyber Technical Computer Education.
- Mohammed Afzal transported ammunition to the terrorists all the way from Srinagar. He helped the terrorists to buy the white ambassador from Lucky Motors in Delhi’s Karol Bagh on 11th December for Rs. 1.1 Lakh and installed a red-beacon which made the white ambassador look like an official vehicle. The explosives were brought from the wholesale market, Khari Baoli, a week before the attack.
- On 12th December, the terrorists even bought dry-fruits worth Rs. 2000, as they had a plan to create a hostage situation in the Parliament and their plan was to keep themselves adequately stocked in case the negotiators tried to deprive them of food.
- Their main plan was to arm themselves at secluded points of the Parliament complex without raising any kind of alarm. They wanted to create a diversion by blowing up the car which was carrying around 30 kgs of RDX and rush into the buildings of the Parliament through the main entry gates.
- On the morning of 13th December 2001, around 12 pm five terrorists entered the premises of Parliament in a white ambassador with a fake logo Home Ministry Logo on its windshield. It was around 40 minutes this time that the Parliament had been adjourned.
- One of the Parliament Watch Guard and Ward Staff became suspicious as the ambassador started moving towards Building No. 12.
- The ambassador took a wrong turn and when the car was forced to turn back, it collided with the car of Vice President Krishan Kant. This collision brought all the attention of the Parliament Guards to them.
- The terrorists, having nowhere to go, got down from the ambassador and opened fire on anyone they saw in the Parliamentary complex. The terrorists were carrying AK-47s, heavy bags of equipment, and explosives strapped to their bodies.
How the situation was handled
- The entire parliament complex was sealed by the Police. Security forces of Delhi Police, Black Cat Commandos, Central Reserve Police Force were all brought to control the situation.
- The terrorists were running towards the Parliament building, then back again behind a wall in the surrounding park and firing with their rifles as they were shot by the police. Hundreds of rounds were fired as the security force hid behind cars, trees, and the corners of the building. The whole incident was broadcasted live on most television news channels. The gunfight lasted around 45 minutes and the end of which, all the terrorists were killed by the security forces.
- One of the terrorists was the human bomb who went to Gate No. 1 and blew himself up. The body of the suicide bomber was found later without arms and legs, lying on the walkway of the building. The attackers never got past any of the 12 entry doors into the Parliament building, but managed to shoot it with bullets.
- Meanwhile, the Parliament complex was converted into an armed camp. The Parliament members who were trapped inside the buildings were whisked away to safety with the help of the security forces. Security forces along with the army had already started guarding the residence of the prime minister, the home minister, and the leader of the opposition. As a precautionary measure, security units were deployed in the VVIP zones.
- After all the Parliament members were evacuated from the buildings, National Security Guard Commandos and the Bomb Squad were called into the Parliament. The Bomb Squad set off a remaining bomb in a controlled explosion and defused several grenades.
- Eight security personnel and a gardener were killed along with the 5 terrorists and 22 people were injured.
- Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Prime Minister of India, addressed the nation on television shortly after the attacks and was quick to denounce the militants. He said, “This was not just an attack on the building, it was a warning to the entire nation and we accept the challenge.”
Casualties and death
No lawmakers or Cabinet officials were harmed during the gunfight as the Parliament session had just adjourned and most of the Parliament members were inside the main building. All the five terrorists along with eight security personnel and a gardener were killed, and 22 others were injured.
Punishment of the culprits
- On 13th December, the police filed an FIR recording an armed attack by the five terrorists.
- On 15th December, Afzal Guru was arrested by Delhi Police in Jammu and Kashmir. S.A.R Geelani from Delhi University was picked up from questioning and was later arrested. Shaukat Hussain Guru and her wife Afsan Guru were arrested later. Afzal Guru was sent to police remand for a 10 day period.
- Charges were framed against Afzal Guru, S.A.R Geelani, Shaukat Hussain Guru, and Afsan Guru. On 18th December 2002, the death sentence was awarded to Afzal Guru, S.A.R Geelani, and Shaukat Hussain Guru while Afsan Guru was acquitted.
- On 30 August 2003, in an encounter with the Border Security Force in Srinagar, Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Ghazi Baba, a prime accused in the Parliament attack was killed. S.A.R Geelani was acquitted on 29th October 2003.
- On August 4, 2005, the Supreme Court of India confirmed the death sentence of Afzal Guru and commuted Shaukat Hussain Guru’s death sentence to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.
- On 3rd October 2006, Afzal Guru’s wife Tabassum Guru filed a mercy petition with the President of India. The mercy petition was dismissed the following year.
- On 27th January 2007, the Supreme Court dismissed the Afzal Guru’s plea seeking review of his death sentence stating there was no merit in it.
- On 19th May 2010, Afzal Guru’s mercy petition was rejected by the Delhi government and endorsed the death sentence awarded by the Supreme Court. On 3rd December, Shaukat Hussain Guru was released early from Tihar jail because of his good conduct.
- On 3rd February 2012, President Pranab Mukherjee rejected the mercy petition of Afzal Guru and on 9th February 2012, Afzal Guru was hanged in Tihar jail. His remains were buried in Tihar jail as the government had decided not to hand over his remains back to his family.
Enhancement of security in Parliament
The Parliament attacks of 2001 would not have happened if the security measures were kept tight and stringent. The attack revealed that there were some flaws in the security system of the Parliament which needs to be taken care of to avoid any future attacks on the throne of Indian democracy.
Over the years new security procedures have been made in the security management to counter the modus operandi of terrorists who pose a threat to the Parliament. The present security management of Parliament involves coordination between the security forces of:
- Central Reserve Police Force
- Indo-Tibetan Border Police
- Intelligence Bureau
- Delhi Police
- Special Protection Group
- National Security Guards
- Parliamentary Security Service
Entry to the Parliament complex building is allowed after proper authorisation, verification, identification and authentication of the individuals and their belongings, which is done with the aid of modern security devices.
Parliament Duty Group (PDG) a group of 1500 strong heavily armed troops of CRPF, guards the outer perimeter of the Parliament complex. They are also responsible for the overall security of the complex which includes the main Parliament house, Parliament house annexe, reception office building and Sansadiya Gyanpeeth (library of the Parliament). PDG along with the help of Parliamentary Security Service(PSS) provides security to the VVIPs, MPs and other visitors. National Security Guards (NSG) help them in this task, who are armed with the latest weapons and modern devices and have special emblems on their uniforms.
Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) commandos of Delhi and advanced bomb detection units are deployed on every road going to the Parliament complex. CCTV cameras are being used 24×7 for surveillance of the Parliament. Sharpshooters have been placed strategically with an order to shoot intruders.
It is nearly impossible for an unauthorised motor vehicle to enter within the premises of the Parliament. Sensor-based three-foot pillars have been installed that rise from the ground at the main entrances to stop vehicles in advance and in addition to that spikes and tyre deflators have been activated remotely.
The outer perimeter includes electric fencing with armed guards, three physical checks for visitors through metal detectors, and frisking. The Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha speaker, the deputy speaker, the Rajya Sabha Chairman, deputy chairman and leaders of the opposition in both the houses are permitted to drive up to the main entrance of the Parliament. All the other MPs have to walk to the main building of the Parliament, leaving their respective cars in the parking area. The security forces placed at the entry gates have been trained to identify all parliamentarians, their assistants, official reporters, stenographers and clerks. The security clearance for every employee is done regularly with the aid of the Intelligence Bureau.
Legal consequences and acts enacted
As the democratic political structure of India was challenged, it was needed to have an enhanced authority to meet the terrorist threats. It was argued that the existing laws regarding terrorism had failed to stop the militants from threatening the Indian democracy on 13th December 2001.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) 2002 came into force in June 2002 and was enacted to counterfeit all the militant attacks on Indian grounds. It was made to make the anti-terrorism operations strong in India. The POTA had some relevance to the provisions in the USA Patriot Act. Definitions of terrorists and terrorist activities have been clearly defined in the POTA.
Some of the salient features of POTA were:
- POTA allowed the detention of a suspected individual for up to 180 days without filling the charges in courts.
- It allowed law enforcement agencies to hide the identities of the witnesses.
- POTA allowed treating a confession made to the police as an admission of guilt. It was opposed to the regular Indian laws which say that a person can deny such confessions in a courtroom.
Around 800 people were arrested and jailed under the provisions of POTA. The largest number of arrests were seen in the state of Jharkhand. Some 250 people have been jailed under POTA in Jharkhand to control the rising number of Naxalites in the state.
POTA was abolished by the Manmohan Singh Government in 2014. On 17th September 2004, their decision was approved by the Union Cabinet.
One cannot imagine what could have happened if the terrorists were successful in carrying out their plans in the Parliament. Many Parliament members would have lost their lives, several bomb blasts could have happened, several gunfights might have resulted in the loss of lives and a chaotic atmosphere would have set in. All the mistakes and flaws that India has in its security management and its laws need to be rectified. India not only needs strict security measures and security forces placed in the Parliamentary offices but also strict and stringent laws against terrorism to make India secure from all possible forms of terrorist attacks.
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