Parliament security breach | This was a breach, 2001 Parliament attack was terror, says MP who witnessed both

Biju Janata Dal MP Bhartruhari Mahtab says that while both exposed serious flaws in security, they were incidents of a different nature

December 13, 2023 07:31 pm | Updated 08:19 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab speaks in the Lok Sabha on December 4, 2023. Photo: SansadTV via ANI

BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab speaks in the Lok Sabha on December 4, 2023. Photo: SansadTV via ANI

Among the handful of MPs who witnessed both the 2001 attack on the Parliament, ironically on December 13, and Wednesday’s security breach is Biju Janata Dal MP Bhartruhari Mahtab who said that while both exposed serious flaws in security, they were incidents of a different nature.

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Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Mahtab said that in 2001, when five terrorists from the Lashkar-e-Taiba attacked Parliament House, it was a “gatecrash”. “They were all from Pakistan, other than Afzal Guru was in Delhi, and nine security personnel lost their lives as did the terrorists. The attack was on the outside, although we heard gunshots within. What happened today was a security breach. Those apprehended were Indians. At least two had cleared four barriers of security to get into the Lok Sabha chamber, this is a grave issue but should not be compared to 2001,” he said. “My apprehension however is that this would have been an incident of a far graver nature if the gas had been of a poisonous nature,” he said.

Mr. Mahtab said that he was in the Lok Sabha when one of the intruders jumped, landing near Assam MP Dilip Saikia and nearly on top of a woman watch and ward staffer. “Within a minute he could access the canister in his shoe,” said Mr. Mahtab. After the yellow coloured smoke came out, he added, the second intruder also jumped, but by then MPs had started moving towards the intruders to apprehend them. “The watch and ward staff came much later, our members got to them first. As I said, my apprehension was with regard to the nature of the gas that was in the cannister,” he said.

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For Mr. Mahtab, and for other parliamentarians, the security breach on Wednesday was an unwelcome but thankfully non-lethal reminder of the perils of public life.

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