13 December 2001
Attack on the Indian Parliament
On 13 December 2001, the Sansad Bhavan or the Indian Parliament complex was attacked by terrorists affiliated to the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Fourteen people were killed in the attack including the five perpetrators.
- On 13 December 2001, at about 11:30 AM, security at Parliament complex in the country’s capital New Delhi was breached when five heavily armed militants entered the complex in a white ambassador. The car apparently had penetrated security by having fake VIP cards and a red beacon.
- They entered the complex about 40 minutes after Parliament was adjourned. The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi had left the complex. Most of the other 100 MPs including the Home Minister L K Advani were present inside the building.
- The terrorists’ car brushed against the Vice President’s motorcade and invited an unplanned confrontation.
- Heavy gunfire ensued between the terrorists and the security personnel for about an hour. All five terrorists were neutralised. Five Delhi police personnel, a Parliament security guard and a gardener were also killed in the violent episode. About 22 people were also injured.
- All ministers and MPs were unhurt in this incident which was also aired live on television by news channels.
- One of the militants, who had ammunition strapped around him, had blown himself up in front of the main entrance to the parliament chambers.
- The terrorists’ intentions were perhaps to enter the building and shoot indiscriminately at the crowd of MPs and ministers.
- Even though this incident was short-lived and the death count small in comparison to other events like the Mumbai terror attack on 26/11, it remains one of the most poignant terrorist acts on Indian soil because of the intended target. The terrorists chose to attack at the heart of Indian democracy.
- It also exposed the poor security at the complex. The event prompted the government to spend crores on beefing up the security at the complex.
- Extensive investigations after the attack revealed four names in connection with the case – Afzal Guru, SAR Geelani, Shaukat Hussain and Navjot Sandhu.
- Sandhu was convicted of only 1 charge (concealing with intent to facilitate design to wage war) for which she was sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment and a fine.
- All the other three were sentenced to death by the trial court.
- Geelani was later acquitted while Hussain’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was released 9 months before his official release date due to ‘good conduct’.
- Afzal Guru was executed by hanging on 9 February 2013 after a mercy petition filed by his wife was rejected.
- His hanging was not without controversy. While some people objected to the long delay in getting due justice for the victims of the attack, others claim he was unjustly hanged.
- This incident further deteriorated relations between India and Pakistan and both countries escalated military personnel and preparations along the borders. The countries were on the brink of war.
- Even though Pakistan had officially condemned the attacks and expressed sympathies with India, many called for action against the neighbouring country for harbouring militants and actively assisting them with training and arms.
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