2001 Parliament attack: ‘At first, I thought someone burst crackers’Updated: Dec 13, 2019 03:53 IST
I clearly remember that on December 13, 2001, I was at the Central Hall of the Parliament chatting with other Members of the Parliament when I first heard what sounded like crackers being burst. Then I heard the sound of an explosion. At first I thought someone was bursting crackers as part of a celebration, and wondered what might the occasion be. I only realised what was happening when the watch and ward staff came running towards us, breaking the terrible news that the Parliament was under attack.
The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Opposition leader and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were not present, but many other senior leaders were.
Within minutes, members were rushed into the Central Hall and the area was secured. The doors were shut.Gate 1, we heard, was under attack. That was the main gate of the Parliament building. Gate 11, was secure. That was the one used by Rajya Sabha chairman and some other VVIPs. We stayed in the Central Hall till evening. None of the elevators were working. Some of our guests who were visiting the third floor office of the Biju Janata Dal (the office is now on the ground floor) were asked to take the stairs and come down to the Central Hall. In the middle of all this chaos and tense moments, rumours began to spread: one said that terrorists had reached the top of the building and wanted to blow it up. It was terrifying, and luckily, it was proved to be wrong.
Finally, after an hour, the then Parliament affairs minister Pramod Mahajan came and broke the news that terrorists were neutralised.
More people were brought to the Central Hall before room and floor search operations were conducted. While I was stuck in the Central Hall, my wife gave me updates over the cellphone about what was happening in the Parliament complex thanks to TV channels broadcasting this live. In the evening, we were asked to go to Parliament Street police stations in batches and from there we went home in buses provided by the police, shaken, but alive thanks to the valour of our security forces.
(As told to Saubhadra Chatterji)
Bhartruhari Mahtab is a six-time Lok Sabha MP of the Biju Janata Dal, and was an MP at the time of the attack