Thursday, December 24, 2020

21 yrs on, Kandahar hijack still haunts Bhopal couple

Bhopal: Burger, Doctor, Chief, Bhola and Shankar... The names still bring nightmares to Durgesh and Renu Goel.

These are the names of the five hijackers of Air India flight IC-814, on which the newly weds were returning from Honeymoon in Kathmandu on December 24, 1999. There were 17 passengers from Bhopal on the plane at the time of hijack.

Memories of the horrific ordeal cling to them, and it’s only now that they can bring themselves to talk about it.

Goel said it took him several years to come out of the nightmare. “It took me 10 years to board a flight after that incident. My wife and I lived through a nightmare that will remain seared in our souls,” said Goel, a Bhopal-based builder.

Narrating the horror, Goel said, “Bhola and Burger used to hit passengers, while Doctor and Chief used to talk with the authorities. Those 175 hours were the worst part of each passenger’s life who was on that flight.”

At one point of time, passengers were so desperate and furious that they had decided to attack the hijackers. “Imagine the situation where 150 passengers are confined within a plane for almost 175 hours. After discussing with one another, it was decided that we would try and overpower the five hijackers. However, the negotiation were finalised and we were released,” said Goel. He remembers that the flight almost crashed twice. “The hijackers forced the pilot to land at Amritsar although the airport was not meant for an Airbus. It was quite skilled of our pilot to make the landing there. Also, when our plane was not allowed to land at Lahore airport, the pilot tried to land on a road. But he changed his mind at the last minute, seeing a lot of people there,” said Goel.

24/12/20 Ramendra Singh/Times of India

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