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December 13, 2001
1632 IST

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Forces clear Parliament to 'sanitise' premises

Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi

With parliamentarians being safely escorted out of Parliament premises at 1330 hours, gun-toting securitymen asked reporters to leave in order to 'sanitise' the building.

"Please leave the building. Our security forces are going to completely sanitise the area since we don't want to take any chances," said the chief of the security guards at Parliament's main gate.

He said the Parliament building would undergo 'total sanitisation' to ensure that no terrorist was still hiding anywhere.

Thursday's terrorist attack had left five terrorists dead, shot by security forces deployed inside Parliament premises.

Vijay Goel, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, said: "A white car, probably an Ambassador, drove into Parliament from the Vijay Chowk side." He also said that one of the terrorists was shot dead by the jawans of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.

However, for reporters who were waiting to hear from Opposition leaders about their parliamentary strategy after both the Houses were adjourned over the coffin scam earlier in the morning, the sudden gunshots at 1140 hours came as a shock.

What followed was deep-blue (close-button) suited Parliament security guards, who are all Delhi policemen, shouting at the reporters to save their skin since it was not known whether any terrorist had managed to sneak inside.

The guards shepherded a clutch of reporters into the room where government documents are distributed and closed the doors.

Outside, defeaning gunshots interspersed with a few loud explosions were heard. The securitymen on the first floor of Parliament shouted to their counterparts to search every inch of the premises outside since some terrorists might be still at large.

For the visibly shocked reporters, it was horror personified as three telephones inside the room went dead. Somebody muttered that the authorities were not taking any chances and had deliberately disconnected the telephone lines, leaving only All India Radio telephone line intact.

Snatches of contradictory reports filtered into the room as a couple of reporters came into the room which was opened momentarily. There was a mad scramble for the AIR telephone by the other reporters, but the AIR reporter was just too busy feeding in his stories.

It was after well over a hour that the reporters were allowed to go out and they scrambled to telephones in the other room to file their reports.

Meanwhile, Delhi Police Commissioner Ajai Raj Sharma entered Parliament premises with the siren of his car blaring. Ambulances also rushed out with the bodies of those killed and the injured, including a lady assistant in the Rajya Sabha who was said to be seriously wounded.

Every car leaving the premises was being thoroughly searched by security guards. Those with official Parliament label were allowed to go outside after their identity cards had been checked.

Goel claimed that Union Home Minister L K Advani was in his Parliament House office when the terrorists struck. He wanted to go to the Central Hall but was dissuaded by his security detail.

When Advani eventually reached the Central Hall, he "boosted the MPs' morale," said Goel.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kalraj Mishra told reporters outside the Lok Sabha lobby that the incident was unfortunate and that all parties must step forward to ensure that security measures are strengthened so as to prevent similar incidents.

Congress spokesman S Jaipal Reddy said that he was in his party's parliamentary office along with party colleagues Shivraj Patil and Priyaranjan Dasmunshi when he heard the gunshots. He said he would decide later whether Thursday's party briefing would be held or not.

Meanwhile, reinforcements had been called and numerous armed Black Cat commandos waited in neat rows to sanitise Parliament building after it had been evacuated.

While putting on an outwardly cheerful appearance, most parliamentarians looked dazed and quietly boarded the buses waiting to ferry them back home.

All roads leading to Parliament were cordoned off as security forces began to check if there were any more terrorists on the loose in the premises.

YOU MAY ALSO WANT TO READ:
Complete Coverage: The Attack on Parliament

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