Two young men jumped on to the Parliament floor and sprayed an innocuous yellow gas—in a stunt designed to attract attention rather than inflict harm. But the incident raises serious questions about security—and also the rage that drove these young Indians to this act.
First, tell me what happened…
Around 1 pm on Wednesday—the anniversary of the 2001 Parliament attacks—two men jumped from the visitor’s gallery—onto the floor of the Parliament. They chanted slogans like “Tanasahi nahi chalegi”—and tried to run towards the Speaker’s Chair. You can see those initial moments below:
The yellow gas: The two men pulled out two small gas cans from inside their shoes—and yanked them open. The chamber was soon filled with yellow gas—all of which created great panic among some of the MPs. You can get a sense of the situation in this photo taken by an MP:
FYI: You can see Rahul Gandhi looking pretty chill on the right side of the photo. According to an Indian Express reporter on the scene, Gandhi looked “unfazed”—saying merely “Yes, there were some protesters… They jumped from the gallery”—and walked away. OTOH, his Congress colleague Karti Chidambaram was highly agitated:
Zero Hour was on and I was waiting for my turn to speak when the incident happened. There was yellow smoke everywhere… It could have been toxic and lethal. Around 100 MPs must have inhaled that gas.
Happily, the gas turned out to be entirely harmless.
Meanwhile, outside Parliament: While the chaos was unfolding on the floor of the Lok Sabha, two other people—a man and a woman—opened gas canisters outside, shouting slogans as well.
How it ended: Two MPs—from Rajasthan and Punjab—finally pinned the men down—who were then promptly beaten up:
The police have arrested all four who were on the scene—plus a person in Gurgaon who was part of the plan. The sixth is still on the run.
Hilarious clip to watch: In India, any situation can turn into a farce—especially when our worthy TV news channels are involved. See this epic brawl over one of the canisters left behind by the protesters. Look for CNN News18's senior editor Pallavi Ghosh—who is the feistiest of the lot:
So who are these people?
They all are young and unemployed—from modest backgrounds. And all of them were angry at their lack of prospects.
One: Manoranjan Devarajegowda (34) lives in Mysore. He is an engineering grad who used to work at an IT firm—but was now helping his father with farming. Manoranjan’s father condemned his son’s actions—but said, “My son has never harmed anybody. He was very fond of reading and was interested in doing a lot of social work.”
Two: Amol Dhanraj Shinde (25) from Latur, Maharashtra, failed to pass the Army recruitment exams—despite multiple efforts. His parents are farm labourers. Shinde’s mother said: “We don’t know what caused him to do this but he had been feeling dejected as, despite his efforts, he wasn’t getting in. ‘What’s the use of my education and preparation if I can’t get in?’ he used to say.”
Three: Neelam Azad (37) from Jind, Haryana, holds MA, M.Ed and M.Phil degrees and has cleared the National Eligibility Test. She was studying for competitive exams—living in Delhi. Her mother said: “We are not a prosperous family, but we still educated her. At home, she used to say, ‘I studied too much unnecessarily but did not get a job… It would be better if I die’.”
Four: Lucknow resident Sagar Sharma (25) drove an e-rickshaw—but describes himself as “a writer, poet and philosopher” on his social media handle. In his last Insta post, Sharma said: “Jeete ya hare, par koshish toh zaroori hai. Ab dekhna yeh hai, safar kitna haseen hoga… Umeed hai phir milenge” (Whether we win or lose, it is important to try. Now, we need to see how beautiful the journey is… Hope to meet again).
Point to note: Far less is known about the two who were not on the scene—Vishal Sharma alias Vicky and Lalit Jha.
Why they did it: All of them were part of a Facebook group called ‘Justice for Azad Bhagat Singh’—which is how they met. Apart from their devotion to Bhagat Singh, some of them have participated in some form of activism in the past. Azad took part in the farmer protests—while Manoranjan’s father says he used to be a “student leader.”
The intention was not to harm but send a message:
“During questioning, they claimed that they were not happy with the working style of the current government and wanted to send a message to the country related to Manipur, the farmers’ protest and inflation,” said a source, citing their initial interrogation report. “They claimed that they wanted to send a message just like their idol, Shaheed Bhagat Singh, and decided to go to Parliament,” said the source.
We highly recommend: watching the speech made by Neelam Azad as she was being arrested. It sums up why they are angry—and what they were trying to do:
So how did these people get in so easily?
For starters, Manoranjan had a visitor’s pass issued by the local BJP MP Pratap Simha—which he used to get himself and Sharma into the building. They hid the canisters in their shoes—which are not checked by security—like so:
The gas canisters were likely made of plastic so the scanners did not pick them up.
Helping things along: The height from the visitor’s gallery to the floor of the new Parliament building is only 10.5 feet. And there is no barrier to prevent anyone from jumping down.
Overwhelmed security: Parliament is policed by its own security staff—who seem to be struggling to deal with a flood of visitors:
Security staff said visitors have increased manifold since the opening of the new building, given the hype around it by the ruling party members. “We have to manage long queues each day. Many times, staff of ministers and MPs try to force us to hurry with the security checks, dropping names of big leaders,” one security staff at the gate said. “We are facing an acute shortage of staff. There have been no recruitments since 2011,” one watch-and-ward staff inside the building said.
Where we are now: The Home Ministry has set up an inquiry committee to investigate what went wrong—and how to fix it.
Ok, now explain why I should be worried about these people?
We need to worry about why six Millennial Indians from very different parts of the country are so angry and desperate—that they staged such a dangerous stunt for attention. It is a red flag about our so-called ‘demographic dividend’—i.e the advantage offered by the fact that nearly two-thirds of 1.43 billion Indians are under the age of 35.
Unemployment stats: Every data point tells us that young educated Indians are struggling to get a job. More than 15% of graduates are unemployed—that number is a staggering 42% for graduates under 25 years. Data point to remember: 12 million additional Indians reach employment age every year. Some calculations estimate more than 17 million entered the job market in 2022.
Point to note: Many educated people are not even looking for jobs—due to a lack of opportunity—which means the actual jobless rate may be higher:
“The situation is worse than what the unemployment rate shows,” CMIE Managing Director Mahesh Vyas told Reuters in 2022. “The unemployment rate only measures the proportion of those who do not find jobs to those who are actively seeking jobs. The proportion seeking jobs itself is shrinking.” Unemployment is a situation when a person actively searches for a job but is unable to find work.
Where are the jobs? There is plenty of evidence we are not creating opportunities for our educated youth—despite the rising GDP numbers:
Economists say more and more job-seekers, especially the young, are looking for low-paid casual work or falling back on unreliable self-employment, even though the broader Indian economy is seen growing at a world-beating 6.5% in the financial year ending in March 2024.
This trend is becoming more apparent since the end of the pandemic—according to the recent “State of Working India 2023” report. Its authors say:
One thing that stands out is that economic growth has not guaranteed employment. With every percentage increase in GDP, the capacity to generate jobs has systematically declined… What we do see at the global level, and especially in India, is that whatever salaried work is being generated has tended to be informal salaried work. You would think that salaried work should come with a contract and other benefits, but increasingly what we are seeing is that good salaried jobs are less and less prominent.
In India, the formal economy continues to grow—but it isn’t generating many jobs. As a result, 94% of the labour force is in the unorganised sector—largely working at low wages.
The bottomline: Manoranjan, Neelam, Amol and others are so desperate—that they will destroy what few prospects they have by committing an act that is guaranteed to ruin their lives. That’s why economist Jayati Ghosh calls the country's demographic dividend "a ticking time-bomb":
The fact that we have so many people who have been educated, have spent a lot of their own or family's money but are not being able to find the jobs they need, that's horrifying. It's not just the question of potential loss to the economy ... it is a lost generation.
The Telegraph and The Hindu have more on what happened inside the Parliament while Indian Express has a first person account from a reporter who was present in the House. The Print looks at how the six people behind this met online while Indian Express details their modest backgrounds. Deccan Herald and Reuters underline the enormity of the unemployment crisis. Scroll explains why the demographic dividend comes with a deadline.