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Bomb scare in Parliament
*Both Houses vacated * Jostling MPs rush to exits
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 16
An e-mail threat to bomb Parliament in the forenoon today sent shock waves all around and created chaos leading to the abrupt adjournment of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and all other ministers and MPs being evacuated to a safe zone.

A thorough screening of the sprawling Parliament House complex for any identified bag or bomb turned out to be a hoax. The origin of the telephone call has been traced in Chennai and a team of the Delhi police special cell is probing the matter. Investigations are under way if the threat was a mischievous act of a prankster. The security authorities are not ruling out anything. Simultaneously, the internet service provider from where the e-mail had been sent has also been identified. A case has been registered against unknown persons under section 121 of the IPC for waging war against the State and relevant sections of the Prevention of Unlawful Activities.

Nevertheless, the memory of the December 13, 2001 terrorist attack on Parliament came flooding back even as the MPs and others jostled with one other to rush to the exits after Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and Rajya Sabha Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat made the chilling announcement suddenly that the two Houses had been adjourned till 1 pm. The two Presiding officers urged the MPs to immediately vacate the premises minutes before the question hour was to conclude at noon.

Even as the perplexed members looked at each other, the security staff trooped into the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha urging the MPs to make a quick and orderly exit. All the journalists and staff of the Parliament House complex were asked to leave the building. During this time the ominous siren was blaring.

Within minutes, the imposing and virtually impregnable Parliament considered the pride and cradle of Indian democracy had been emptied out. It was swarming with security staff, sniffer dogs and bomb disposal experts. Nobody was going to take any chances even though there were indications of the threat being a hoax. Security in and around the Parliament House has been beefed up several times over after the daring terrorist attack four years back.

Union home minister Shivraj Patil, who was not in Parliament at the time the Houses were adjourned, dashed to the area and after a high power meeting told mediapersons that the bomb warning had emanated from Chennai. He refused to go into the details except to disclose that the call from Chennai had been received by the Intelligence Bureau as well as the US Embassy in the Capital. "I think everything is allright. The whole thing is being inquired into. We don't want to take any chances."

Union Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Union Finance Minister were seen mingling with the MPs and scribes near the main entrance of Parliament house. Both of them were unruffled as also the MPs many of whom explained that Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee had received a chit from staff. He immediately consulted with Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi who advised the Speaker that the threat was serious. Mr Chatterjee wasted no time in adjourning the House and urged the MPs to vacate the House. Mr Shekhawat did likewise in the Upper House.

A calm and composed Mr Chidambaram specially came up to the TV cameras and stressed several times that "there is no need for panic. A threat had been received and it will be sorted out soon." Mr Mukherjee also underlined the need for maintaining calm so that the security agencies can give the all clear signal.

MPs belonging to various parties spoke uniformly of a threat call having been received of an identified object being somewhere in the Parliament House complex.

On his part, the Lok Sabha Speaker also tried to keep things on an even keel. "As a precautionary measure, Mr Chatterjee said: "We have adjourned the House. I appeal to all the MPs to reassemble at 3 pm. There is no need to be scared. Fortunately, there was nothing but we could not take a risk."

The Speaker said there was no question of being terrorised. "The Indian Parliament is not fragile and we are ready to face any eventuality."

Mr Dasmunshi chimed in "the situation is under control. There is no need to panic."

The Prime Minister was rushed to his office in the South Block. He had just finished an appointment with Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha in his office in Parliament House.

The Lok Sabha Speaker expressed happiness that there was no breach of security in Parliament following reports of a bomb threat. "We take this opportunity to reiterate our resolve to be alert and be in preparedness to combat all such threats."

Making a suo moto statement after the Lok Sabha assembled in the afternoon, Mr Chatterjee said he had adjourned the House at 11.52 hours on receipt of intimation from security personnel about the threat perception within the precincts of the House. Security personnel immediately combed the entire complex. "No untoward incident happened and no suspicious article was found," the Speaker observed.

In a statement in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, Mr Patil said that the bomb scare in the Parliament House was found to be a hoax and declared that the country "will give a fitting reply to such threats in future."

He assured that a proper strategy to deal with such threats in future will be formulated after detailed discussions with the Secretary Generals of the two Houses of Parliament. The security inside Parliament and outside will be further strengthened.

Today's incident took place just three days after the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attack on Parliament that claimed 10 lives ó five security personnel and five civilians including a journalist who died months later from bullet injuries. New Delhi had blamed Pakistan backed terrorists for that attack, an event that took the two countries to the brink of war before the dramatic peace process unfolded two years ago.


E-mailís origin point identified
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 16
Acting swiftly, the security agencies have tracked down the computer which was used to send the e-mail claiming that there will be a bomb blast in the Parliament and the U.S. Consulates in India, Union Home Secretary V K Duggal said here today.

"We know exactly the origin point...it is at Chennai... At the moment we can't disclose any further information on this," Mr Duggal told newspersons soon after the e-mail was officially confirmed as a "hoax" and the entire security drill in Parliament complex was completed.

A Special Team has been constituted by the Delhi Police's Special Cell to probe the incident, which is already on the job to nab the culprits, Mr Duggal said.

He informed that the Delhi Police's Special Cell has registered a regular case in Parliament Street Police Station here under Section 121 of IPC (waging war against the nation) and under sections 18 and 20 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Meanwhile, sources said a team of Delhi Police's Special Cell has already left for Chennai for further probe.

The e-mail, which read "Today there will be a bomb blast in the Parliament and U.S. Consulates in India at 11.46 A.M. Stop it if you could. Cut relations with the USA. Long live Osama Bin Laden Asadullah's Alkalifs.", was not only mailed to the U S Consulate in Chennai, but also to the Home Ministry, Mr Duggal said.

He, however, refused to say whether any international or Indian terrorist outfit are suspected to be behind creating this panic.

"It is a matter of investigation, whether it was just a mischievous act by a prankster or any group was behind it," Mr Duggal said.

About the security drill at Parliament, the Home Secretary said "Although on the face of it we found the e-mail to be mischievous and a prank, the drill could not have been avoided as we can't take chance with Parliament or any other such important installations."

"There had been a terrorist attack in Parliament in 2001, so we could not have taken the e-mail lightly," he said acknowledging that in the past few months security agencies have been receiving such hoax calls.

Mr Duggal also expressed happiness over the swift and efficient manner in which the various security agencies involved in the security of Parliament reacted to the situation.

"About 10 to 15 days ahead of January 26, the Union Home Ministry will hold a meeting with representatives of various security agencies and representatives of Home Departments of States to review the security arrangements," he added.

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