Smoke canister strike by two visitors sets off chaos in Lok Sabha

Six involved in breach; five detained, including two who set off canisters and shouted slogans outside Parliament; Delhi Police have not found any terror angle, say it was a political protest

December 13, 2023 01:56 pm | Updated 11:58 pm IST - New Delhi

Green smoke fills the Lok Sabha hall as MPs vacate following a security breach in Parliament on December 13, 2023.

Green smoke fills the Lok Sabha hall as MPs vacate following a security breach in Parliament on December 13, 2023. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In a major security breach on the 22nd anniversary of the attack on the Indian Parliament, two men jumped into the Lok Sabha chamber from the visitors’ gallery on December 13 afternoon, carrying canisters emitting yellow smoke. Amidst the chaos, Parliamentarians apprehended the two intruders, beating them up before handing them over to the security staff.

Delhi police sources said that six people involved in the incident have been identified, and five detained, including two who set off canisters and shouted slogans outside Parliament, and a Gurugram resident in whose home they all stayed on December 12 night. A senior Delhi police officer said that they have not found any terror angle to the incident, calling it a political protest though no links to any political party have been found as yet. Investigations are still underway.

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The Opposition questioned the security lapse, alleging that it had taken some time for the security apparatus to kick in, leaving the MPs to deal with the intruders on their own. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla later clarified that the smoke was not poisonous, promising a high-level enquiry into the breach and a security review of the new Parliament building. No MPs or security staff were injured in the incident. He also suspended the entry of visitors into Parliament as an immediate step.

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‘Protesting unemployment, price rise’

The two men who jumped into the Lok Sabha were identified as Lucknow resident Sagar Sharma, 28, and Mysuru resident D. Manoranjan. They entered the Parliament on visitor’s passes, endorsed by Prathap Simha, the BJP MP from Mysore. The two caught outside Parliament were identified as Latur resident Amol Shinde, 25, and Hisar resident Neelam Devi, 42, who claimed that she was a student unaffiliated with any political party. As she was detained by police, she shouted slogans: “Tanashahi nahi chalegi (dictatorship will not be tolerated)“, “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, and “Jai Bhim, Jai Bharat.” A fifth suspect, Vicky aka Vishal Sharma is a Gurugram resident who hails from Hisar, and has also been detained, police said.

All six were in touch with each other through social media applications, including Instagram, and had known each other for more than three years, police sources said, adding that during interrogation, they had claimed to be upset about unemployment and rising prices. No mobile phone was recovered from the duo caught outside the Parliament, who did not carry any bags or identity proofs, and have refused to associate themselves with any organisation, claiming that they are students.

Anniversary of 2001 attack

Hours earlier, Mr. Birla, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, former and current Congress chiefs Sonia Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge were among those who paid floral tribute to the seven Parliamentary security officials and the staff members who were martyred in the 2001 attack on Parliament.

Neither Mr. Modi nor Mr. Shah were present in the house when the breach took place, though half a dozen Ministers were in attendance. Even as several MPs rushed out holding handkerchiefs to their noses, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who was chatting with his colleagues at the entrance to the chamber, was seen rushing in to check what was happening. 

Overpowered by MPs

The trouble began at 1:00 p.m., when BJP MP Khagen Murmu was speaking and another BJP MP Rajendra Agarwal was in the chair. The MPs heard a loud thumping sound. But only a few could comprehend what was unfolding. The backbenchers were the first to notice that a man had jumped from the visitors’ gallery and was charging towards the chair, leaping over the table. The second man was hanging from the railing, preparing to drop down. The two were carrying the smoke canisters in specially customised shoes. 

“Zero Hour was going on, suddenly two people jumped from the visitors gallery straight opposite the Speaker’s chair. They had canisters in their hands that started emitting yellow smoke. One of them ran towards the Speaker’s chair. He was overpowered by many members. He removed his shoes before he was tackled,” Congress MP Karti Chidambaram said.

Pass endorsed by BJP MP

According to several eye-witnesses, there were 30 to 40 people in the visitor’s gallery from which the two men jumped. They had been sitting quietly during the proceedings. It happened all of a sudden, said an eye-witness in the gallery, who did not wish to be named. “We were evacuated from the gallery, within minutes after the two men jumped,” he added.

One of the accused, Mr. Sharma, who jumped in first, leapt over the tables, heading towards the chair. When the MPs caught and thrashed him, they also emptied his pockets out to establish his identity. An Aadhaar card and a temporary visitor’s pass endorsed by the BJP MP Mr. Simha was found on his person. BSP MP Danish Ali posted pictures on social media of the Parliament pass and the shoe, in which the canister had been carried.

The house was immediately adjourned by Mr. Agarwal till 2:00 p.m. “I wasn’t looking at the visitors gallery, I was alerted after the noise. But when I realised what was happening, I immediately adjourned the house,” Mr. Agarwal told The Hindu

‘Non-poisonous substance’

After the House reconvened, the Speaker told members that a thorough investigation of the incident was being done, informing them that the yellow smoke had been assessed as a non-poisonous substance and that preliminary investigations did not suggest a terror angle. 

“Both of them have been nabbed and the materials with them have also been seized. The two people outside the Parliament have also been arrested by police,” he added.

‘Where was security?’

Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, attacked the government, noting that the incident had taken place on the day that MPs paid floral tribute to “our brave hearts who sacrificed their lives during the Parliament attack”.

“All the MPs fearlessly nabbed the two people but I want to know where the security officials were when all of this happened,” he asked. As members sought to raise their concerns, the Speaker said that he would meet parties after the proceedings of the day to seek their suggestions. At 4:00 p.m. the house met again, but was adjourned for the day within minutes.

(with inputs from Sandeep Phukan)

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