Were the intruders who jumped into the Lok Sabha hall from the visitors’ gallery and opened smoke canisters on the 22nd anniversary of the 2001 Parliament attack, inspired by iconic freedom fighter and revolutionary Shaheed Bhagat Singh? A report by Bharat Hiteshi
A common thread connects all the intruders though on the surface, little ties them together and that thread is their reverence for Shaheed Bhagat Singh. The intruders include the son of a carpenter who drove an e-rickshaw to eke out a living; the son of daily wage labourers; an engineering graduate who returned to farm in his village; a qualified daughter of a ‘halwai’ who hunted for a government job for years. They come from different parts of the country — Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, Latur in Maharashtra, Mysore in Karnataka, and Jind in Haryana.
The 37-year old Neelam Devi from Ghaso Khurd village in Uchana in Haryana has her profile picture on social media with the cut-out of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Daughter of a “halwai” she was unemployed and had failed to find work despite qualifying the National Eligibility Test, and the Haryana Teacher Eligibility Test. Her mother, Saraswati Devi, said that her inability to find a job had left her despondent, and her daughter once told her, “it is better to die”. She used to run a library in the village and had also taken to protests, participating in both the farmers’ stir and the wrestlers’ protest in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against WFI president. She was also preparing for the Haryana civil services.
Amol Dhanraj Shinde, apprehended while protesting with Neelam Devi outside Parliament, had studied only till Class 12, and was preparing for the army and police recruitment examinations. He had once passed the physical examinations for the state police services, but failed the written test. He had told his father, a daily wage labourer Dhanraj Shinde, that it was for these examinations that he would intermittently travel to Delhi, and visited the Capital three times in the last few months. Investigators now believe that at least one of these trips was a reconnaissance mission for the group of intruders. The Lok Sabha Secretariat has suspended eight security personnel for lapses, a probe initiated on the orders of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the intruders have been arrested and booked under the anti-terror law UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act).
The incident has glaringly exposed the vulnerability of the parliamentary security system. The intruders had gained access to the gallery through visitor passes arranged by BJP MP Pratap Simha. Parliamentarians invariably entertain requests for such passes from members of their constituencies. As per the Parliament rulebook, the MP has to certify that ‘the visitor is my relation/personal friend/known to me personally and I take full responsibility for her/him’. It is apparent that due diligence was not exercised by the MP and his personal staff while processing applications.
In Lucknow’s Ramnagar locality of Alambagh, the family members of 27-year-old Sagar Sharma, one of the accomplices who entered Parliament, is son of Roshan Sharma, a carpenter. When he left Lucknow for Delhi, he told his mother Rani Sharma that he was going to a protest. In Mysuru, the father of Manoranjan D, Deveraje Gowda insisted that his son was a “good boy” who wanted to “do good for society”. Gowda, who owns farmland in Mallapura village in Hassan district, said that Manoranjan had finished an engineering degree from a Bengaluru college.
Questions remain how the group, reportedly fans of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh who bonded on social media, could go under the intelligence radar and plan, evade security checks, enter the House and execute the operation on the 22nd anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attack on Parliament?