December 13, 2001: When the heart of India's democracy was hurt

By: Oneindia Contributor
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How can India ever forget December 13? It was on this day in 2001 that India's democratic epi-centre the Parliament was hit by blood thirsty terrorists from Pakistan. The entire nation had for the first time witnessed such a dastardly attack. Fidayeens running around with guns was not witnessed anywhere in the country barring Kashmir and on December 12 2001, India woke up only to realize that no place even the Indian parliament is unsafe. [2001 parliament attack convict Afzal Guru hanged]

From Khandhar to Parliament:

It was the year 1999 and chilling news of the IC814 being hijacked broke out. The crisis dragged on before a demand to release Maulana Masoor Azhar was made. It was for the government to take the ultimate call on whether to release this terrorist or risk the lives of so many onboard the IC814. Several agency officials part of that operation say that it was an extremely tough call. The question of negotiating with them was extremely bleak. After all the plane had landed at Khandahar controlled by the Taliban.

Dec 13: Thirteen years since Parl attack

The ISI wanted Masoor Azhar at any cost for their Kashmir battle and with Pakistan's spy agency carrying out the negotiations while putting the Taliban in front, it only made matters worse.

Masood Azhar after his release went back to Pakistan and formed the Jaish-e-Mohammad. It took the Jaish less than two years to make an announcement. In no time was the Parliament attack planned and executed and the message was clear that they wanted to hit out at the democracy in India. This attack in fact boosted the Jaish to a large extent and it went on to become a formidable force in the Kashmir struggle.

A tough probe:

Officers involved in the probe said that it was an extremely tough one. Former Chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, C D Sahay points out that the terrorists (5 of them) were killed in the encounter and hence there was no confession to rely upon. The probe started from scratch and finally it was ascertained that the Jaish was behind it. The leads were picked up and followed and in the absence of quality evidence, I would say that it was an extremely tough probe, Sahay also points out.

Was India soft?

There was a lot of eye ball confrontation between India and Pakistan following the Pakistan attack. India had threatened war, but the question was how feasible was it. The Kargil war had just been fought and there was already a lot of international attention on the ties between India and Pakistan. Even if India had decided to go to war, the international community would have jumped in to stop it.

There were several meetings at the Prime Minister's office to discuss the feasibility of a war. However it was decided that the issue would be tackled in a different way rather than go to war. After all a Kargil had been fought just recently before the attack on Parliament.

India however decided that it would not merely issue statements. A message had to be conveyed. India witnessed the biggest mobilization of forces along the border in the shortest time possible. The Pakistan army was in fact worried about this kind of mobilization and had even backed off to a large extent.

Did the approach pay off?

It is very debatable whether the decision not to go to war paid off or not. While on the international front India was commended for showing restraint, the other issue was that Pakistan had not and will never learn.

The Parliament attack witnessed fidayeens strike at the heart of democracy. After this there were scores of terrorist attacks. Pakistan orchestrated a new strategy of carrying out home grown jihad and even roped in the SIMI and later the Indian Mujahideen to do so. Since the birth of these two outfits, India has witnessed scores of attacks which also includes the audacious 26/11 attack.

The hanging of Afzal Guru:

For the investigators the hanging of Afzal Guru was a major closure. After all they had struggled to get evidence against him. To add to this was the pressure from separatist groups in Kashmir who continued to claim that he was innocent. Investigators say that it was disheartening to see the manner in which politics was being played out. [Afzal Guru hanged: How Kashmir's black days are back again]

The government was also weighing several options where Guru was concerned. They had to take into consideration that violence in the Valley would not flare up after this hanging. The agencies and the Indian army had done a lot to ensure that some sanity in the Valley had returned and the government felt that they ought to maintain calm.

Guru was however hanged on February 9 2013. It was done under the UPA regime. The sudden decision to hang him was not because the government of the day had a conscience call. Instead the government was well aware that the elections were coming up and they wanted to tom tom about this.

A timeline:

Dec 13, 2001: Parliament was attacked. Five terrorists enter into the Parliament complex and kill nine people, injure 15.

December 15: Professor S A R Geelani, Afzal Guru and Shaukat Hassan arrested by Delhi police.

December 25: Pakistan carries out a ceromonial arrest of Maulana Masood Azhar, the mastermind.

December18, 2002: Trial court awards death senteces to Afzal Guru, Shaukat Hassan and Geelani.

October 29, 2003: Geelani is acquitted in the case by the Delhi High Court. The death sentences of the two other accused is upheld.

August 4, 2005: Supreme Court upholds Afzal Guru's death sentence. Geelani's acquittal not interfered with while the death sence of Hassan commuted to ten years.

Jan 12, 2007: Supreme Court dismisses Afzal Guru's plea for review of death sentence.

February 9, 2013: Afzal Guru is hanged at the Tihar jail.

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