Courage + Commitment + Compassion = Neerja Bhanot
Courage, Commitment and Compassion. This three words that explain why Neerja earned world-wide acclaim. Neerja Bhanot was a flight attendant, who was murdered while saving passengers from terrorists on board the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73. Neerja was the youngest recipient of India’s highest peacetime military award for bravery, the Ashok Chakra.
Neerja Bhanot was born on 7 September, 1963 in Chandigarh. She was the daughter of Rama Bhanot and Harish Bhanot. Her father Harish Bhanot was worked as journalist with The Hindustan Times. Neerja had two brothers – Akhil and Aneesh.
Neerja Bhanot had an arranged marriage in March 1985 and later she joined her husband in Gulf. Because of dowry pressure she came back to her parents’ home in Mumbai within 2 months. Then she applied for a flight attendant job. As she selected in job, she went Miami for training. In a 1986 she was worked as a senior flight purser.
On 5 September 1986 Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked by four armed hijackers. Pan Am Flight 73 hijacked at when it was landed at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. This flight was carrying passengers from various country such as India, Germany, America and Pakistan.
Four hijacker are dressed as an Airport Security Guards entered in aircraft and instantly Neerja alerted the cockpit crew, so they could escape. When they fled the crew member only Neerja has left. Bhanot, being the senior-most cabin crew member on board, took charge.
One of the hijacker instructs Neerja to collect the passport of all passengers so they could identify the American. But Bhanot and other flight attendants hide the passports of 41 Americans – some under a seat and some rest down a rubbish chute.
After the 17 hours, the hijacker opened fire and set explosives. Bhanot opened the emergency door and helped number of passengers to escape. She could escape first but she decided not to and was shot while shielding three children from bullets. She saved 359 lives. It was two days before her twenty-third birthday and she died on 5th September 1986.
The Hijackers said to be from the Abu Nidal Organization (backed by Libya), were captured by Pakistan. Later in 1986 all the hijackers convicted and verdict to death.
Neerja is an upcoming Hindi film, the film revolves around the factual hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi, Pakistan specifically focusing on flight attendant Neerja Bhanot. This film shows how the young flight attendant fought for the lives of her passengers. Film releases in theatres on 19th February 2016.
To show her contribution on the day of the hijacking the Indian government awarded her with Ashok Chakra (India’s highest gallantry award for bravery in the face of the enemy during peace time). Apart from the Ashok Chakra she receives multiple awards for her bravery such as Tamgha-e-Insaniyat (Awarded for showing incredible human kindness, Pakistan), Indian Civil Aviation Ministry’s Award, Special Courage award (US Govt.) and Flight Safety Foundation Heroism Award (U.S.A.). Indian Postal Service released a stamp venerating her.
After death of Neerja Bhanot government gave money to her family. Using this money her parents set up Neerja Bhanot Pan Am trust. In this trust her parents give two award worldwide one for flight crew member who act as a call of duty and another one to Indian woman who face social injustice such that dowry, here other women in similar social distress.
Neerja Bhanot displayed the most conspicuous bravery in the face of grave adversities and tried to save the lives of the passengers on the ill- fated flight at the cost of her own life. She is known for her bravery act, she make proud to us.