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13 Dec, 2023 10:14

Major security breach in Indian Parliament on the anniversary of terrorist attack

Intruders sprayed gas during the ongoing session hours after MPs paid tributes to people killed in the December 13, 2001 attack
Major security breach in Indian Parliament on the anniversary of terrorist attack

A major security infraction occurred in the Indian Parliament on Wednesday as two intruders stormed the building during an ongoing session of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the nation’s legislature.

A discussion was ongoing when an individual jumped into the parliament from a visitors’ gallery, quickly followed by another one, India Today reported. Reports say the infiltrators pulled out canisters and released a “yellow gas,” which is yet to be identified, before being overpowered by members of parliament.

The proceedings were suspended until the afternoon. According to media reports, the attackers have been detained and are being held at a police station. The breach coincides with the 22nd anniversary of the December 13, 2001, terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament that killed nine people, including several policemen.

On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top political leaders and MPs were seen paying tributes to the victims of the attack at India's old parliament building.

Notably, the security breach comes a week after a US-based Sikh separatist leader, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, appeared to have issued a threat to attack the parliament on December 13. Pannun is at the center of an ongoing case probed both in the US and India over a foiled murder plot against him allegedly orchestrated by New Delhi.

In a video shared by Indian media outlets, the authenticity of which cannot be independently confirmed by RT, Pannun reportedly said that the Indian government tried to “kill” him and added that a response on December 13 would shake “the very foundation” of the parliament.

Pannun is the founder of the US-based Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), known for its advocacy for carving out a separate nation-state called ‘Khalistan’ for the minority Sikhs out of northwestern India’s Punjab region. 

Last week, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York filed an indictment linking an Indian government official to an assassination attempt against Pannun, which the FBI had foiled earlier this year. New Delhi has created its own high-level committee to probe “all the relevant aspects of the matter” while insisting that such tactics were “contrary to government policy.”

Wednesday’s incident in parliament comes a day after India’s top anti-terrorism body, the National Investigations Agency (NIA), had reportedly asked Washington to share intelligence on Sikh separatists operating from American soil.

According to a Reuters report, the request was made during a meeting with FBI Director Christopher Wray, who is visiting New Delhi to meet the country’s top intelligence and security officials.Reuters noted that the issue of Khalistan activism in the US was discussed in “greater detail” by internal security teams from both countries.

“India has requested the US officials to share inputs on suspected individuals who have in recent years been recruited and embedded in the separatist movement,” the unnamed official was quoted as saying by the agency.

Meanwhile, according to the Times of India, Wray assured New Delhi that it was “aggressively” investigating an attack on the Indian consulate in San Francisco carried out by pro-Khalistan activists earlier this year. The outlet claimed that the Pannun issue did not arise during Wray’s meeting with NIA officials “as it was already being dealt with on a diplomatic level.”

The Khalistan movement is seen as a security threat by New Delhi, which has raised the issue with several Western countries that are home to large Sikh diasporas.

Pannun’s murder plot surfaced months after Canada accused India of being involved in the murder of its citizen, another prominent Khalistan activist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in Canada’s British Columbia Province in June of this year. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau linked Indian “agents” to the killing, sparking a massive diplomatic row between New Delhi and Ottawa. New Delhi has vehemently denied the allegations. India has designated both Pannun and Nijjar as terrorists.

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