Neerja Bhanot (September 7, 1963 – September 5, 1986 ), was a flight attendant for Pan Am airlines, based in Bombay, India, who died while fighting terrorism on board the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 on September 5, 1986, she went on to become the youngest recipient of India’s highest civilian award for bravery, the Ashoka Chakra
To put this in perspective, around 50 Ashok Chakra’s have been awarded since independence, other winner’s include Hemant Karkare from 26/11, inspector MC Sharma, who led Delhi’s Okhla area against alleged terrorists, havildar Bahadur Dohra, colonel Jojan Thomas, Orissa Special Operations Group assistant commandant Pramod Satpathy and Meghalaya’s DSP Raymond P Diengdoh.
Neerja Bhanot was the senior flight purser on Pan Am Flight 73, hijacked as it headed out of Mumbai and landed at Karachi en route to Frankfurt and onward to New York City by four armed terrorists. Despite being tackled, she helped the three-member cockpit crew of pilot, co-pilot and the flight engineer escape. In the following 17-hour ordeal, she hid the passports of the passengers on the flight so that the hijackers could not differentiate between American and Non-American citizens. Eventually, she opened the emergency door, flung a chute and assisted a number of passengers escape from the flight, while she laid down her life shielding three children from the bullets fired by the terrorists.
Most of us are nervous when we’re on board an aircraft, imagine being on an aircraft with 4 lunatic gunmen firing guns at you, here’s what I believe most of us would look like when faced with a similar situation.
For her bravery the Government of India posthumously awarded her the Ashoka Chakra (India’s highest decoration for gallantry away from the battlefield, or not in the face of the enemy), being its youngest and only female recipient. In 2004 the Indian Postal Service released a stamp commemorating her.
Neerja’s brother Aneesh Bhanot went to Washington DC, in 2005 to receive the ‘Justice for Crimes Award’ awarded posthumously to Neerja as part of the ‘Annual Crime Rights Week’. In 2006, she and the other Pan Am Flight 73 flight attendants and Pan Am’s flight director for Pakistan were awarded the Special Courage award by the US Department of Justice.
As for her killers,
The hijackers said to be from the Abu Nihal Organisation were captured, tried, convicted and sentenced to death in 1988 but later commuted to life in prison due to the soft approach of Pakistan towards terrorism.
In 2001, Zayd Hassan Abd Al-Latif Masud Al Safarini, the hijacker who shot the passengers was captured by FBI in Bangkok after being released by Pakistan. In the US, he is presently serving 160 years prison term in Colorado. Four others were freed from Pakistan’s Adiala Jail in January 2008. The FBI has announced a $5 million bounty on their head.
Pakistani intelligence officials announced that one of the hijackers, Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim was killed in North Waziristan tribal region in a US missile attack on 9 January 2010.
We would like to believe that he had an expression like this when he saw the US drones about to blow him to pieces.
Cracked by Malcaluffin, sai, rajesh m, manish, ismav and raghuvansh