New Delhi: Both houses of parliament Thursday paid tribute to the nine people killed when terrorists attacked parliament this day 11 years ago. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) used the occasion to again press for the hanging of Afzal Guru, the prime accused in the case.
Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members observed a minute’s silence in remembrance of the nine killed on Dec 13, 2001 when five armed Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists attacked parliament. There was also a ceremony in the parliament house complex, attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, BJP leader L.K. Advani, his colleagues Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley and others.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar read out a message offering tribute and condolences to the family members of the martyrs of the attack. Nine people were killed and over 15 injured in the attack.
“Every 13 December we remember those who gave their life for all political parties but one question is still unanswered – that the person who has been convicted by the Supreme Court and given death sentence has not being hanged yet,” said Sushma Swaraj, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha.
Countering the attack, the government said the BJP should understand that parliament does not pronounce death penalty.
“There is a legal process and parliament does not pronounce death penalty and the BJP should understand that the process has already been explained by my senior Mr. Shinde (Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde),” said Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh.
The BJP in both houses sought clarification from the government on the Afzal question.
In the Lok Sabha, the BJP had given a notice to adjourn the question hour to discuss the issue. As the chair did not accept the demand, the BJP and the Shiv Sena created a ruckus, forcing two adjournments.
The issue was raised in Rajya Sabha as well, but it functioned smoothly after Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said he would convey the sentiments to the home minister.
“The matter is with the home ministry, the home minister should come and clarify,” BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu said.
On Dec 13, 2001, five heavily-armed gunmen stormed the parliament house complex and opened indiscriminate fire, killing nine people. The nine included five Delhi Police personnel, a woman Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper, two parliament watch and ward staffers and a gardener.
A journalist, who was injured, died later. All five terrorists were shot dead.
Four people, Afzal Guru, S.A.R. Geelani, a Delhi University professor, Navjot, also known as Afsan, and her husband Shaukat Hussain Guru were arrested in connection with the case. Geelani and Afsan were let off for lack of evidence. Shaukat Hussain Guru’s death sentence was reduced to 10 years’ imprisonment and he is now out of jail.
Afzal Guru was sentenced to death on Dec 18, 2002, by a trial court, which was upheld by the Delhi High Court on Oct 29, 2003. His appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court on Aug 4, 2005. His mercy plea is pending and Shinde has said he will study the file after parliament’s winter session ends Dec 22.