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Did the hijack of flight IC-814 bring India to its knees?

The flight number IC-814 of the Indian Airlines, travelling from Kathmandu to New Delhi was hijacked mid-air.

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The ill-fated flight IC-814 was destined to fly from Kathmandu to Delhi
The ill-fated flight IC-814 was destined to fly from Kathmandu to Delhi

NEW DELHI: The Christmas Eve of 1999 doesn’t go well into the books of Indian history. The whole global community was hit with the hell of a jerk when the news of a plane hijack was set out by the Indian media channels. The flight number IC-814 of the Indian Airlines, travelling from Kathmandu to New Delhi was hijacked mid-air. At the time of the hijack, the airline was carrying 178 passengers and 11 crew members on board, after it took-off from the Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu.

This incident shattered the whole Indian Intelligence wing and questions were already raised on the credibility of R&AW agency. R&AW (Research & Analysis Wing) is the external intelligence unit of India and looks up for the foreign threat counts. But after the hijack of IC-814, every available resource was scrambled to contain the situation which was already out of hand.

Till date, there are a lot of unanswered questions as to why there was no show up of NSG commandos when the aircraft landed at Amritsar and the time was ripe enough to launch a counter-attack on the hijackers.

An article by a profound writer and columnist, Kanchan Gupta has rightly concluded in one of his articles on Kandahar hijack that India standout to be a nation of cowards. When it mattered the most, Indian people turned out in their true colours and let the nation down by surrendering in front of the hijackers.

Prime Minister Atal Beharai Vajpayee thoroughly counted every possible option at his disposal
Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee thoroughly checked all the possible options at his disposal

The initial impact

During this mishappening, NDA government was in the centre and till date is held responsible for such a huge goof-up. The then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in mid-air at the time of the hijack and from the time of the hijack incident, he was informed almost after two hours. The lag in the communication is blamed on the lack of satellite phones at that time.

The moment Vajpayee landed at the Palam Air Base, National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra broke the news of plane hijack.

Vajpayee was taken aback by it and called for an emergency meeting with his security advisor and cabinet ministers. He also called off his birthday and Christmas celebrations, scheduled for that evening.

Later, the five hijackers were identified as Ibrahim Athar, Shahid Akhtar Sayed, Gulshan Iqbal, Sunny Ahmed Qazi, Mistri Zahoor Ibrahim, and Shakir. All of them were found to be the residents of Pakistan and belonged to a dreaded militant organization.

Hijacking ordeal

Just after few moments of the takeoff of flight IC-814, militants hijacked the plane and diverted it to Lahore airport but they were denied permission to land at the airport. Then they head towards Amritsar after realizing that the flight was running low on fuel. The Amritsar’s airport, Raja Sansi Airport was immediately alerted about the hijack and directed to prevent the plane from taking off after the planes landing.

The hijackers demanded the refueling of the plane but it was blatantly rejected by the Indian officials and the aircraft stayed there for another forty-five minutes. Soon hijackers got suspicious and expected a commando attack, so they stabbed a passenger and forced the flight to take off with an almost empty tank. Then the under pressure pilots took off from there and attempted another landing at Lahore airport, even after the denial of permission from Pakistan’s airport authority. But with sheer courage and skill, both the flight pilots of IC-814 landed the plane safely at the landing strip and parked it in the airport’s bay area.

After the refueling of the aircraft by the Pakistani authority, hijackers took off from there and flew to Dubai airport. Dubai officials permitted them to land there and in return, successfully negotiated the release of 13 women and 11 children. The next morning, the plane took off for Afghanistan and landed at Kandahar Airport, at that time which was under the direct control of the terrorist organization.

Demand for ransom

On holding their fort at Kandahar airport, the hijackers demanded the release of 36 terrorists held in Indian prisons in return for safe passage for the people onboard. After hours of herculean negotiations by the security officials, Indian government stumbled upon a deal with them and finally agreed to release three terrorists in exchange for all the hostages. The name of terrorist to be freed included Maulana Masood Azhar, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, and Ahmed Omar Sheikh.

Within no time, the paperwork was done in order to release the terrorists and they were flown to Kandahar airport.

Finally, after suffering of five stressful day, people were relieved from the captivity of the hijackers
Finally, after suffering for five stressful days, people were relieved from the captivity of the hijackers

Moment of sigh

After that, two aircrafts left for Kandahar airport and Indian officials made the exchange. On the evening of 31st December, hostages of flight IC-814 were flown back to Delhi and a sense of relief prevailed in the Indian government and its people. But, soon the NDA government came under intense fire from various political parties.

Following this incident, India didn’t take much time to learn from this blunder and till date, it is made sure that nothing sort of that magnitude occurs ever. Although, there are still many unresolved mysteries going around in the minds of the people, but no one is up to take the responsibility for such a gaffe. Even the presence of an R&AW agent in the hijacked plane is a matter of contention. Reports suggest that R&AW officials were tipped prior to the hijack but were rashly rebuffed.

Irrespective of all the fuss, the unchallenged credit goes to the people involved in this whole incident and we salute to the bravery and courage put up by the flight pilots and the people on board.

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CAA, NCR and NPR: Result of India-Pakistan Partition

Reflection on partition as government opens wounds on citizenship

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Since the word "Partition" has figured in the discourse on CAA, NCR, NPR the mind turns towards Maulana Azad, who was fiercely opposed to the country's division. Pixabay

BY SAEED NAQVI

Since the word “Partition” has figured in the discourse on CAA, NCR, NPR the mind turns towards Maulana Azad, who was fiercely opposed to the country’s division. By a coincidence, next month, February 22, happens to be the 61st death anniversary of Maulana Azad. Exactly 30 years after that date, those 30 precious pages of “India Wins Freedom” were taken out of the National Archives which the Maulana had kept away so that all his contemporaries were not around to face embarrassment from the exposures, if any, contained in those pages.

And there were embarrassments galore. The Intelligentsia and the ruling class was disinclined to give much credence to what the Maulana wrote. The absence of debate after the publication of the “complete” edition of “India Wins Freedom” in 1988 was deafening. Nor were threads picked up subsequently in the interest of history. For instance, the Maulana’s assertion that, towards, the end of the negotiations with the British, Sardar Patel appeared to be more convinced of the two-nation theory than Jinnah, deserves to be noted. Rebut it, if need be. To avoid the brutalities which followed the announcement of the Partition plan, an idea was mooted to keep the British Army united.

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“Partition would be unadulterated Hindu Raj,” said Maulana Azad. Pixabay

As a temporary measure, it seemed a sensible idea. But to the Maulana’s surprise, most adamantly opposed to a United Army “even for a day” was the arch pacifist Rajendra Prasad. His opposition was conditioned by a fear that a United Army would remain an “unfinished” business of Partition. And who knows how long this “unfinished business” would linger. What if a United Army becomes a pressure point for reversing Partition? The eagerness to hold onto Partition is manifest in the behaviour of a long list of leaders. The Maulana describes in detail how Sardar Patel had convinced even Mahatma Gandhi that Partition was the best course under the circumstances.

Just as it is today, Assam was the key state in focus in 1946-47. The crucial role it is playing today in the CAA, NRC discourse is not surprising. Fired by sub nationalism and cultural pride, Chief Minister Gopinath Bordoloi enlisted Mahatma Gandhi’s support in rejecting the Cabinet Mission proposal yoking Assam with Bengal in what was described as zone C in the Mission’s plan. The country was to be stabilized under groups: A, B and C.

The Cabinet Mission’s was the last effort to keep India united. It was endorsed by the Congress on July 7, 1946. But two surprising events made Partition inevitable. One was Assam’s firm rejection of being grouped with Bengal. It feared then as it does now, of being inundated with migration. Second was the new Congress President, Jawaharlal Nehru’s fateful press conference in Mumbai on July 10. Nehru declared that all that had been agreed with the Cabinet Mission and Jinnah, would have to be ratified by a constituent assembly. This stipulation was not in the agreement. Little wonder Jinnah picked up the marbles and walked out of the game. Partition became inevitable.

The Maulana’s opposition to Partition was absolute. He was eloquent about the cultural commerce of over 1,100 years which he always described as his heritage. “We handed over our wealth to her (Bharat) and she unlocked for us the door of her own riches.” He was unambiguous: “Partition would be unadulterated Hindu Raj.” In the light of experience, was he wrong? Was Partition the Congress’s gift to the Hindu right? A Muslim country next door to be hated in perpetuity. An unresolved problem of Muslim majority Kashmir. A 200 million Muslim population — a lethal mix for dedicated Hindu Rashtra Bhakts — all under the canopy of global Islamophobia.

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On reflecting upon the India China Pakistan, the government opens wounds on citizenship. Pixabay

If Pakistan was so much against the interests of Muslims themselves as the Maulana never tired of saying, why should such a large section of Indian Muslims be swept away by its lure? The Maulana’s response to this query was unique:

“The answer is to be found in the attitude of certain communal extremists among the Hindus. When the Muslim League began to speak of Pakistan, they (Hindus) began to read into the scheme a sinister pan Islamic conspiracy. They opposed the idea out of the fear that it foreshadowed a combination of Indian Muslims with trans-Indian Muslim states. This fierce opposition acted as an incentive to the adherents of the League. With simple though untenable logic, they argued that if Hindus were so opposed to Pakistan, surely, it must be of benefit to Muslims. Reason was impossible in an atmosphere of emotional frenzy thus created.” Is the ogre of three Muslim majority states a continuation of the line the Maulana had spotted 75 years ago?

He was convinced that the “chapter of communal differences was a transient phase of Indian Life.” “Differences would persist just as opposition among political parties will continue but, it will be based not on religion but on economic and political issues.”

Nehru’s last interview with Arnold Michaelis in May, 1964, shortly before his death is revealing. First, he dismisses Jinnah almost as a non entity in the freedom struggle. “He was not in the fight for freedom.” In fact, the Muslim League was set up by the British to “Divide us”. He said he, like Gandhiji and others, were opposed to Partition. “Then why did you accept Partition?” Michaelis asks. Nehru’s reply is cryptic.

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“I decided it was better to part than to have constant trouble.” The trouble Nehru refers to was clearly the continuous bickering between the Congress and Muslim League in the interim government of 1946. Obviously, Nehru was exasperated by the apparent incompatibilities in the interim government. While giving vent to his exasperation, did India’s first Prime Minister spare a thought for the minorities, primarily Muslims, 200 million at current reckoning who were riveted on him as their leader. Maulana Azad spelt out exactly what their fate would be. And surprising though it is, the Maulana was nowhere near Nehru’s charismatic hold on a community which learnt only in retrospect that they had been let down by the leader they adored. (IANS)