Kashmir: A 50-Year Controversy - Threat of War

By Tkacik Jr., John H. | The World and I, May 2002 | Go to article overview

Kashmir: A 50-Year Controversy - Threat of War


Tkacik Jr., John H., The World and I


The morning of December 13, 2001, was sultry. Five young soldiers looked cramped in the small, Indian-built Ambassador sedan as it approached the main gate of New Delhi's Parliament House complex. The guard eyed the white car's approach with some bemusement. Its passengers were in jungle fatigues, and the sedan looked official. It had an orange flashing light suctioned to the roof and a big parking permit propped behind the front windshield.

The soldiers were clean-shaven, like young Hindu men, not like Muslims. The guard raised a hand to shade his eyes from the sun's hazy glare, then motioned the car to stop. A bulky trooper emerged from the vehicle and approached with a strange look in his eye. Almost instinctively, the guard started to unshoulder his submachine gun.

At precisely 11:40 a.m., there was a blinding flash and an earsplitting pop. Smoke wafted over the bloodied bodies of the guard and intruder lying on the asphalt. The white car chugged off into the Parliament House complex, which houses India's national legislature. It was heading for Gate 12, the entrance reserved for members of the Indian Senate, the Rajya Sabha.

Farther down the driveway, the motor died. The four intruders seemed unnaturally calm as they emerged from the car armed with AK-47s and Chinese-made grenades dangling from their belts. Two black bags (packed with explosives, it was later learned) were left behind on the rear seat. They had yet to get by a high stone wall surrounding Parliament House.

The four split up, with two hurrying into Gate 12 and the other two fanning out across the sunny Parliament House lawn and bounding the wall. Groundskeepers and guards challenged the armed men. AK-47 shots broke out, and grenades blasted. A gardener was killed; a policeman was injured.

Some Hindu politicians were milling around at the main entrance of Parliament House when shots went off like a string of firecrackers. A police officer standing guard looked out the door and saw the corpses at the driveway entrance. He turned, pulled the alarm, and screamed at the bewildered civilians to take shelter inside. For the next several minutes, hoarse shouts, squawking walkie-talkies, bursts of gunfire, and general confusion reigned at the main entrance.

Outside, the attackers were pinned down in the shrubbery near the wall, loosing rounds at targets of opportunity, but heavy fire from guard posts frustrated their efforts to get near the massive Parliament House doorways. Soon, trucks and police cars rolled up, disgorging black- suited commandos. Giving each other small-arms cover, they cautiously but professionally moved into the compound. They spread out across the parking lot, taking cover first behind trees on the lawn, then lying prone.

With patient aim, they squeezed off rounds whenever a terrorist rustled the bushes. In an hour, the four attackers lay still. Police knelt over the bodies of six policemen and the gardener. Sixteen others had been wounded--four seriously (two would later die in the hospital). …

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