Table of Contents
- Rama Bhanot: Neerja Bhanot’s mother
- Harish Bhanot: Neerja Bhanot’s father who worked as a journalist with The Hindustan Times for more than 30 years and died on New Year’s Day in 2008 in Chandigarh.
- Neerja Bhanot: An Indian head purser who died while saving passengers on Pan Am Flight 73 which had been hijacked by terrorists from a terrorist organization during a stopover in Karachi, Pakistan, on 5 September 1986, just two days before her 23rd birthday.
The lesson ‘Neerja Bhanot’; Brave in Life, Brave in Death” is a real-life tragedy which is about a brave Indian woman who gave up her life to save other people’s life. If it hadn’t been for people like Neerja, absolutely selfless and morally strong, this world of war, strife, and struggle would have given way under the weight of vices. At present we need more Neerja’s to fight injustice and act courageously to make this world a better place to live in.
Neerja Banot was born on 7 September 1963 in Chandigarh to Rama Bhanot and Harish Banot, a journalist. She studied at Sacred Heart senior secondary school, Chandigarh, Bombay Scottish school, and St. Xavier’s college, Mumbai. She joined Pan Am Airlines in 1986 as a senior flight purser on the ill-fated Pan Am flight 73.
The PA 73 was hijacked by terrorists on its way to Frankfurt from Mumbai. The flight was still on the tarmac after it had reached Karachi. When the terrorists struck. Neerja alerted the cockpit crew. The three-member cockpit crew – pilot, co-pilot, and flight engineer fled the aircraft. Neerja took charge and the hijackers shot an American.
The terrorists instructed Neerja to collect the passports of all passengers so that they could identify American citizens. As there were 40 Americans on board, she hid the passports. After seventeen hours, when the terrorists opened fire and set off explosives, Neerja opened the emergency door and helped many passengers to escape.
She died shielding three children from the terrorist’s bullets. She is the youngest recipient of the Ashoka Chakra, the highest civilian Award for Bravery. She is recognized as the ‘heroine of Hijack’. The Ashoka Chakra citation states: “Her loyalties to the passengers of the aircraft in distress will forever be a lasting tribute to the finest qualities of the human spirit”.
There is an award named after her, the ceremony for announcing the Neerja Bhanot Award was held at Press Club, Sector 27, on Saturday. Neerja was a flight attendant for Pan Am, who died while saving passengers from terrorists on the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 on September 5, 1986. She became the youngest recipient of the Ashok Chakra, the country’s highest civilian award for bravery.
The Neerja Bhanot Award recognizes the work of such women who have fought against the evils of society and beat all odds to reach a level where they have not only achieved recognition for their work but also changed the lives of others with their initiatives to change society.