The stunning breach in Parliament on Wednesday was a result of at least 18 months of meticulous planning and several meetings among the accused, all of whom hailed from different states but had one common link – a social media page called the ‘Bhagat Singh Fan Club’, police officials have said.
The shocking scenes, which unfolded on the anniversary of the Parliament attack in 2001, saw Sagar Sharma and Manoranjan D jumping from the visitors’ gallery into the chamber of the Lok Sabha during the Zero Hour, around 1 pm. Both deployed canisters containing yellow smoke and Sharma jumped over desks towards the Speaker’s Chair before he was overpowered by MPs and beaten up.
Outside the Parliament, meanwhile, Neelam Azad and Amol Shinde used canisters with yellow and red smoke and shouted slogans against “dictatorship”. While Sharma is a Lucknow resident, Manoranjan is from Mysore, Neelam is from Jind in Haryana, and Shinde is from Maharashtra.
The other two accused are Lalit Jha, who allegedly shot videos of Neelam and Shinde using the canisters outside Parliament and then fled with their cellphones, and Vicky Sharma, in whose house the other accused stayed before the attack. Lalit Jha is from Bihar while Vicky Sharma is from Gurgaon.
According to the Delhi Police investigation so far, the first meeting of the accused took place in Mysuru around 18 months ago. It was at this meeting that they talked about various ways of highlighting issues which they believed Parliament should discuss, including unemployment, inflation and the violence in Manipur.
Another meeting was held nine months ago, in March this year, and that was when a detailed plan began to take shape, police officials said. This meeting took place near Chandigarh airport, during the protest by farmers to demand a legal guarantee for the minimum support price.
Around four months after this, in July, Sharma went to New Delhi from Lucknow to conduct a reconnaissance of the Parliament complex.
This was before the first session was held in the new Parliament building in September, and Sharma could not get access. Officials said he carried out a recce of the building from outside, took note of all the security arrangements and reported back to the rest of the group.
Gathering, Canister Distribution
Having decided on the anniversary of the Parliament attack to carry out the breach, Sharma, Manoranjan, Neelam and Shinde reached Delhi on Sunday, December 10, and headed to Vicky Sharma’s house in Gurgaon, where they stayed until Wednesday.
A police official said that, on the day of the breach, the accused gathered at India Gate and this was where Shinde distributed the canisters to the rest of the accused. He had procured the canisters from his hometown in Maharashtra and carried them with him to Delhi.
The initial plan involved all six going inside the Parliament, but they had managed to get passes only for Sharma and Manoranjan.
Arrests, Security Concerns
What followed is a matter of investigation, and several MPs have raised the issue of the intruders managing to carry out the breach on a day when security inside the Parliament was already tight, given that it was the anniversary of the 2001 attack. Security agencies would have also been alert since Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun had threatened to attack the Parliament ‘on or before December 13’. No link has, however, been established between Pannun’s threat and the breach.
Sharma and Manoranjan entered the Parliament complex around noon and jumped into the chamber around an hour later, officials said. They have been arrested, along with Neelam and Shinde, and Vicky Sharma and his wife have been detained. Lalit Jha ran away with the cellphones of everyone involved in the breach after shooting some videos of Neelam and Shinde deploying the canisters, and efforts are on to trace him.
The four people who have been arrested have been charged under the stringent anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, as well as sections related to criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity, among others, of the Indian Penal Code. They are all being questioned.