The security breach in India’s Parliament on the 22nd anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attack is difficult to explain. There is no doubt at all that the so-called five-layer security system in the new Parliament House was breached. The two men who jumped from the visitors' gallery carried smoke canisters, probably in their shoes, to terrorise the members and staff for a few minutes before they were overpowered and handed over to the police. To make the incident even more macabre, a lady and a man were caught outside the House with the same kind of canisters. Two others were also involved, one of them making good his escape.
What is disconcerting is that all of them were from different states, speaking different languages, and yet they converged in Delhi to send shivers down the spine of the security personnel manning Parliament. And to make it even more bizarre, the two who enacted the scene in Parliament were given passes on the recommendation of an MP belonging to the BJP from Karnataka. They reportedly shouted slogans against the government turning autocratic and not respecting the Constitution. They could not have done much harm as the smoke the canisters emitted was not toxic. Also, they did not have any arms to endanger the MPs or the staff. Incidentally, one can easily imagine how the government would have reacted if the MP in question belonged to an Opposition party, and the accused had a different religious identity.
Whether it was just a prank or not, it exposed the vulnerabilities of the systems in place in the new Parliament. For a government that boasts of being zero-tolerant to no-nonsense, it is nothing but a body blow to Home Minister Amit Shah. There are threats to Parliament from some notorious terrorist organisations. However, the security system seems to be more attuned to making the job of journalists covering Parliament more difficult. There is a conscious effort to keep them at bay from MPs for fear that they would get news leads from them. While this happens, anyone can smuggle in canisters which could have contained poisonous fumes. The security failures need to be ascertained, and the persons responsible for it need to be identified so that appropriate action can be taken, and there is no repeat of a security breach.