Neerja Bhanot The hijack story of the Pan Am Flight No. 73 | Hindi/Eng
Neerja Bhanot is a name that is being written in golden words in the pages of history. She was a brave flight purser who has lay down her life in protecting the lives of the passengers of a hijacked passenger aircraft. Pan Am was the name of the airlines company of United States of America, that she worked for as flight purser. Neerja Bhanot has received several awards and honors from both United States government and Govt. of India. Her contribution to humanity is unforgettable and the bravery she showed during the tough times is incomparable. She is also remembered as the Hijack Heroine
Neerja Bhanot – birth and upbringing
Neerja Bhanot was born on 7th Sep, 1963 in the city of Chandigarh, Punjab. Her father was a famous journalist in Mumbai, named Harish Bhanot. He was an employee of The Hindustan Times, a major daily journal of India. Her mother’s name was Rama Bhanot, who died last year in the month of December. Neerja Bhanot had two brothers. She completed her education in Mumbai.
Neerja Bhanot’s marriage
In the year of 1985, Neerja’s parents gave their daughter’s marriage to a Gulf businessman. It was an arranged marriage. But after she shifted with her husband, she was tortured for Dowry. So she left her husband’s home and returned India just after two months of marriage. She started staying in Mumbai, with her parents and family.
Neerja Bhanot’s Career in Pan Am
After giving up her marriage following Dowry demands from the husband’s side, she wanted to have a career in air hospitality. So wanted to become a flight attendant and got support from her parents. She then submitted an application in the US based passenger flight company, Pan Am, which was recruiting for new flight attendants. She got selected and was sent to Miami, Florida, USA for having her training. But later on, she became a flight purser and started working in Pan Am passenger flights.
Pan America Flight No. 73
Neerja Bhanot was on board in the Pan Am flight no. 73 on 5th Sep, 1886. It was a Boeing 747 passenger plane with 361 passengers on board. The passengers were from different countries, mostly Indians (99) and followed by Germans (84). There were 44 Pakistani nationals too. Pan Am 73 was a New York based flight which left Mumbai and had two stops in between – Karachi and Frankfurt, Germany. There were 19 flight crew members including pilot and co – pilot in the Pan Am 73. Leaving Mumbai, it landed in the Karachi airport few minutes before 6 in the morning. That is when the disaster happened.
The hijack story of the Pan Am Flight No. 73
The Pan Am Flight no. 73 landed in the Karachi airport from Mumbai and was getting ready to depart to its next destination, Frankfurt, Germany. Then suddenly four terrorists, all in dresses of the airport security personals hijacked the Boeing airplane. They used a vehicle which looks similar to that of used by the security personals deployed in the Karachi airport. They did some black fires using their arms and made a hijack announcement.
Neerja Bhanot’s brave act during the airplane hijack
After the Pan Am 73 flight got hijacked by the four armed terrorists, the members of the cockpit left the aircraft. The fight was full with 361 passengers and the flight attendants. The terrorists wanted to separate the American passengers from the rest. They directed Neerja to take all the passports of the onboard passengers. She somehow managed to hide the passports of the American nationals. There were 41 such onboard passengers with American passports. The hijack lasted for 17 long hours. In the meantime, Neerja managed to evacuate some passengers from the emergency exit door of the aircraft and was shot down in doing this.
Terrorists involved in the Pan Am flight 73 hijack
There were four terrorists that hijacked the Pan America flight no. 73 in Karachi Airport. They belonged to the Abu Nidal terrorist group of Libya. They took 20 lives altogether including that of Neerja Bhanot. They started killing people after 3 and half hours of taking the charge of the flight. After a gunfight with the Pakistani commandos, they were captured and arrested. They were all given life imprisonment by the Pakistan government in the year 1988. The Pakistani Govt. latter released one in the year 2001 and three in the year 2008. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was again recaptured and looking for others.
Neerja Bhanot’s awards and honors after her death
Neerja Bhanot became the hijack heroine for the bravery she showed in saving the lives of hundreds of onboard passengers. She could have fled the airplane alone easily like the cockpit crew but chose not to. She helped the passengers to flee the airplane from the backside emergency exit door and was finally spotted and shot down by one of the hijackers. For her immense bravery, the Governments of India, Pakistan and United States have given several awards and honors in her name after her sacrifice for humanity. The Indian Govt. has also released postage stamps of Neerja Bhanot in the year 2004. Here are some list of awards and honors received:
|Sl. No.||Award name||Country||Nature of award|
|1||Ashoka Chakra||India||India’s highest gallantry award for bravery act done in peace time|
|2||Special Courage Award||United States America||For showing bravery in a crime scene and saving lives of crime victims given by Attorney General, USA.|
|3||Flight Safety Foundation Heroism Award||United States America||Award for bravery act by aircraft cabin and crew members for saving lives at risk.|
|4||Tamgha – E – Insaaniyat||Pakistan||Award by the Pakistani Govt. for showing humanity and kindness.|
|5||Ministry of Civil Aviation Award||India||To award the employees of aviation department for showing bravery in saving lives given by Ministry of Civil Aviation, Govt. of India.|
Neerja Bhanot Pan Am Trust and Neerja Bhanot Award
After her heroic death, Neerja’s parents set up the Neerja Bhanot Pan Am Trust which works for women empowerment and fights for social injustices against women. It gives an award each year along with cash amount of Rs. 1.5 lakh to one woman of India who has stood up against social injustice against her and helped others similarly.
Upcoming Bollywood movie on Neerja Bhanot
A Bollywood movie is in progress of shooting which is based on the bravery of Neerja Bhanot and the Pan Am 73 hijack incident. Sonam Kapoor will play the part of Neerja Bhanot in this upcoming movie called Neerja. It is expected to hit the theatres later this year and the movie’s first look has been released.