Very few people in India are aware of Late Neerja Bhanot. However, she is widely admired in the USA and many western countries. It is because of the fact that Neerja had saved many lives and in the process left this planet Earth.
Neerja was born on 7th September, 1963 in Chandigarh. She was a Hindu Brahmin by caste. She has done schooling from Chandigarh and later shifted to Mumbai for high education. Her parents used to call her LADO. They married her to person who was working in the gulf. Unfortunately, there were continuous demand for dowry. Her parents were unable to fulfill demands and hence Neerja was continuously pressurized and tortured. She decided to return India and started to live with her parents. During this time, she was selected as a flight attendant of Pan Am Airlines. Following is the story of her presence of mind and dedication towards her passengers. While saving many lives, she died on the same fateful day.
Brave Heart Neerja!
Four terrorists hijacked an airplane in Karachi on 5th September, 1986. This was Pan Am Flight 73 which was going to Frankfurt through New York. The target of terrorists was American citizens. Somehow, Neerja got to know about the intentions of those Islamic terrorists. She activated the hijack code through the intercom. This led to escape of cabin crew member.
When hijackers asked about American passengers, Neerja got to know that they are the main target. Hijackers asked her to collect passport of all passengers and see who among them are Americans. She concealed many passports. The drama continues for 17 hours, yes for such a long time Neerja Bhanot was single handedly talking with dreaded terrorists. After this, terrorists opened fire. She opened the emergency door and asked passengers to get out of the flight immediately. Lots of passengers died. Neerja became a shield of many passengers, including three children. Suddenly, a terrorist emptied entire AK 47 magazine on her. She fell on the ground, never to stand again. All terrorists were arrested by the Pakistani army and convicted for death. However, their capital punishment was converted to simple imprisonment for 14 – 20 years.
|Indian Postage Stamp in honor of Neerja|
Indian, American and Pakistani government gave due respect to the brave Indian woman. Indian Government also rewarded Ashok Chakra posthumously to her. This is the only occasion in the history of India when Ashok Chakra was awarded to a woman. Needless to say, she is also the youngest person to have been awarded with Ashok Chakra. Vajpayee government had also issued a postage stamp in the honor of the great Neerja Bhanot.
A Film on Neerja Bhanot
A film is announced on the life of Neerja Bhanot. Sonam Kapoor will play the leading role, while the biopic will be directed by Ram Madhvani.