2001 Parliament attack: Breach that led to a security overhaul

On this day 18 years ago, a five-member suicide squad comprising Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament, while the Lok Sabha was in session: the Houses were adjourned at the time of the attack, but several parliamentarians and staff were present inside the building.

Although all five were neutralised outside the building itself, the attack prompted an extensive overhaul of the security of parliament building. Today, it is one of the most secured complexes in the country.

The multi-layered dynamic security arrangement of the Parliament involves coordination between the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Intelligence Bureau, Delhi Police, Special Protection Group, National Security Guards, and Parliament Security Service. It also uses state-of-the-art technology.

At the core of the security protocol is access control based on proper authorisation, verification, identification and authentication of human and material resources entering the Parliament house complex with the help of modern security gadgets, a ministry of home affairs official said on condition of anonymity.

Since threat perception has increased over the years due to the manifold growth of various terrorist organisations/outfits and their capabilities, new security procedures have been introduced in security management to counter the ever-changing modus operandi of terrorist outfits/individuals who pose a threat to the Parliament house complex, he added.

The outer perimeter of the complex is guarded by heavily armed troops of CRPF, who are part of a special squad called Parliament Duty Group (PDG). The 1500- strong PDG is in charge of overall security of the complex which comprises the main Parliament house, the reception office building, Sansadiya Gyanpeeth (Parliament library building) and Parliament house annexe.

Along with the Parliament Security Service (PSS), it also coordinates the task of securing VVIPs, MPs and other visitors. National Security Guard commandos, equipped with the latest gadgets and weaponry, and sporting special emblems on their uniforms, help them in this task.

On every road leading to the parliament complex, advanced bomb detection units are deployed apart from teams of SWAT commandos of Delhi Police. Every bit of the complex is also monitored 24×7 through CCTV cameras. Sharpshooters are deployed strategically with orders to shoot intruders.

In the December 13, 2001 attack, the five terrorists, armed with AK-47s and grenades tried to enter the complex in a White Ambassador car before they were shot dead by security personnel. Today, it is impossible for an unauthorised vehicle to enter the Parliament. There are sensor based three foot pillars that rise from the ground at entrances to stop vehicles in addition to spikes and tyre deflators that can be activated remotely. All these changes were made after the attack.

The outer perimeter security also includes electric fencing with armed guards, three physical checks for visitors through metal detectors, and frisking. Only the Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha speaker and deputy speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairman and deputy Chairman, and the leaders of the opposition in both the houses are allowed to drive up to the main entrance of the Parliament. Other MPs have to walk to the main building, leaving their cars near the parking area. Officials, accredited journalists and staff, go through multiple checks.

The security personnel deployed at the access points have been trained to identify all parliamentarians, their assistants, official reporters, stenographers and clerks. The security clearance for every employee, permanent or temporary, is done on a regular basis with the help of Intelligence Bureau.

Former union home secretary G K Pillai said: “A lot has been done to strengthen the security. But I have always said that there are two important aspects to making the security foolproof: breaking the security routine and having regular drills.”

“The human factor in security has become very critical over the years. People need to be trained regularly. They should not get used to routine and need to be vetted regularly. Keeping an eye on insiders is important. Secondly, the alertness of any security apparatus depends on how frequently you keep doing the drills, check response (of personnel). There have to be drills to keep them on the toes,” he said.

Source : Hindustan Times

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