The UP Assembly Friday sought an NIA investigation into what Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath described as a “dangerous terror conspiracy” after a white powder in a packet found under a seat in the Opposition benches two days ago was identified by police as “a dangerous explosive”. Adityanath said that 150g of the powder was discovered two days ago, a day after the Budget session began, and that forensic tests had confirmed that it was Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate, or PETN, which is odourless and difficult to detect using metal detectors or sniffer dogs.
The confirmation — Vidhan Soudha staff initially thought it was some chemical — of PETN prompted the state government and assembly to undertake a security review and put in place fresh protocols with immediate effect, including police verification of all assembly employees and security personnel. On Friday, minutes after the assembly session started, Adityanath said, “A strange situation has emerged. In the third row, behind the Leader of Opposition, on July 12, cleaning staff along with the Marshal found a material in a packet. It was sent to the FSL (forensic sciences laboratory), suspecting that it might be some chemical brought for some use. However, yesterday (Thursday) late evening, it emerged out that it was a dangerous explosive.”
The Chief Minister said that even though the powder was “merely 150g, it is so powerful that 500g of it is enough to blow the entire assembly building”. He said the 503 members in the assembly, including from the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council, “were discussing about security for the public but now, their own security has been breached”. Seeking police verification of all assembly employees, Adityanath said, “We should know who all are working here, what kind of people they are.”
Requesting the Speaker to recommend an NIA probe and the Opposition to unanimously support it, Yogi said, “This is part of a dangerous terror conspiracy and to expose those who are a part of this conspiracy, the probe for this incident should be given to NIA.” This suggestion was unanimously agreed to by the House. Citing security frisking at airports, Yogi also requested legislators to cooperate in implementing enhanced security steps and requested them to keep their mobile phones and bags outside, and carry just notepads, papers and pens inside the assembly.
The other measures expected to be in place include the cancellation of a large number of passes issued for visitors; allowing one vehicle pass for each MLA; prior verification of drivers; installation of full-body and baggage scanners; and, the formation of Quick Response Teams. While security inside the Assembly is currently handled by Marshals, Speaker Hriday Narayan Dixit has now allowed the entry of members of the Anti-Terrorist Squad, and asked the government to form a uniform security system.
UP Police, meanwhile, registered an FIR against unknown persons for the “security breach” under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and IPC sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 121A (conspiring to wage war).