Saturday, March 21, 2009

When Indians let down India

The Pioneer | 24, 2008 | Oped

The truth behind Kandahar Was it really an ‘abject surrender’ by the NDA Government?

Kanchan Gupta There have been innumerable communal riots in India, nearly all of them in States ruled by the Congress at the time of the violence, yet everybody loves to pretend that blood was shed in the name of religion for the first time in Gujarat in 2002 and that the BJP Government headed by Mr Narendra Modi must bear the burden of the cross.

Similarly, nobody remembers the various incidents of Indian Airlines aircraft being hijacked when the Congress was in power at the Centre, the deals that were struck to rescue the hostages, and the compromises that were made at the expense of India’s dignity and honour. But everybody remembers the hijacking of IC 814 and nearly a decade after the incident, many people still hold the BJP-led NDA Government responsible for the ‘shameful’ denouement.

The Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi, designated IC 814, with 178 passengers and 11 crew members on board, was hijacked on Christmas eve, 1999, a short while after it took-off from Tribhuvan International Airport; by then, the aircraft had entered Indian airspace. Nine years later to the day, with an entire generation coming of age, it would be in order to recall some facts and place others on record.

In 1999 I was serving as an aide to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the PMO, and I still have vivid memories of the tumultuous week between Christmas eve and New Year’s eve. Mr Vajpayee had gone out of Delhi on an official tour; I had accompanied him along with other officials of the PMO. The hijacking of IC 814 occurred while we were returning to Delhi in one of the two Indian Air Force Boeings which, in those days, were used by the Prime Minister for travel within the country.

Curiously, the initial information about IC 814 being hijacked, of which the IAF was believed to have been aware, was not communicated to the pilot of the Prime Minister’s aircraft. As a result, Mr Vajpayee and his aides remained unaware of the hijacking till reaching Delhi. This caused some amount of controversy later.

It was not possible for anybody else to have contacted us while we were in midair. It’s strange but true that the Prime Minister of India would be incommunicado while on a flight because neither the ageing IAF Boeings nor the Air India Jumbos, used for official travel abroad, had satellite phone facilities.

By the time our aircraft landed in Delhi, it was around 7:00 pm, a full hour and 40 minutes since the hijacking of IC 814. After disembarking from the aircraft in the VIP bay of Palam Technical Area, we were surprised to find National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra waiting at the foot of the ladder. He led Mr Vajpayee aside and gave him the news. They got into the Prime Minister’s car and it sped out of the Technical Area. Some of us followed Mr. Vajpayee to Race Course Road, as was the normal routine.

On our way to the Prime Minister’s residence, colleagues in the PMO provided us with the basic details. The Kathmandu-Delhi flight had been commandeered by five hijackers (later identified as Ibrahim Athar, resident of Bahawalpur, Shahid Akhtar Sayed, Gulshan Iqbal, resident of Karachi, Sunny Ahmed Qazi, resident of Defence Area, Karachi, Mistri Zahoor Ibrahim, resident of Akhtar Colony, Karachi, and Shakir, resident of Sukkur City) at 5:20 pm; there were 189 passengers and crew members on board; and that the aircraft was heading towards Lahore.

At the Prime Minister’s residence, senior Ministers and Secretaries had already been summoned for an emergency meeting. Mr Mishra left for the crisis control room that had been set up at Rajiv Bhavan. In between meetings, Mr Vajpayee instructed his personal staff to cancel all celebrations planned for December 25, his birthday. The Cabinet Committee on Security met late into the night as our long vigil began.

Meanwhile, we were informed that the pilot of IC 814 had been denied permission to land at Lahore airport. With fuel running low, he was heading for Amritsar. Officials at Raja Sansi Airport were immediately alerted and told to prevent the plane from taking off after it had landed there.

The hijacked plane landed at Amritsar and remained parked on the tarmac for nearly 45 minutes. The hijackers demanded that the aircraft be refuelled. The airport officials ran around like so many headless chickens, totally clueless about what was to be done in a crisis situation.

Desperate calls were made to the officials at Raja Sansi Airport to somehow stall the refuelling and prevent the plane from taking off. The officials just failed to respond with alacrity. At one point, an exasperated Jaswant Singh, if memory serves me right, grabbed the phone and pleaded with an official, “Just drive a heavy vehicle, a fuel truck or a road roller or whatever you have, onto the runway and park it there.” But all this was to no avail.

The National Security Guards, whose job it is to deal with hostage situations, were alerted immediately after news first came in of IC 814 being hijacked; they were reportedly asked to stand by for any emergency. The Home Ministry was again alerted when it became obvious that after being denied permission to land at Lahore, the pilot was heading towards Amritsar.

Yet, despite IC 814 remaining parked at Amritsar for three-quarters of an hour, the NSG commandos failed to reach the aircraft. There are two versions as to why the NSG didn’t show up: First, they were waiting for an aircraft to ferry them from Delhi to Amritsar; second, they were caught in a traffic jam between Manesar and Delhi airport. The real story was never known!

The hijackers, anticipating commando action, first stabbed a passenger, Rupin Katyal (he had gone to Kathmandu with his newly wedded wife for their honeymoon; had they not extended their stay by a couple of days, they wouldn’t have been on the ill-fated flight) to show that they meant business, and then forced the pilot to take off from Amritsar. With almost empty fuel tanks, the pilot had no other option but to make another attempt to land at Lahore airport. Once again he was denied permission and all the lights, including those on the runway, were switched off. He nonetheless went ahead and landed at Lahore airport, showing remarkable skill and courage.

Mr Jaswant Singh spoke to the Pakistani Foreign Minister and pleaded with him to prevent the aircraft from taking off again. But the Pakistanis would have nothing of it (they wanted to distance themselves from the hijacking so that they could claim later that there was no Pakistan connection) and wanted IC 814 off their soil and out of their airspace as soon as possible. So, they refuelled the aircraft after which the hijackers forced the pilot to head for Dubai.

At Dubai, too, officials were reluctant to allow the aircraft to land. It required all the persuasive skills of Mr Jaswant Singh and our then Ambassador to UAE, Mr KC Singh, to secure landing permission. There was some negotiation with the hijackers through UAE officials and they allowed 13 women and 11 children to disembark. Rupin Katyal had by then bled to death. His body was offloaded. His widow remained a hostage till the end.

On the morning of December 25, the aircraft left Dubai and headed towards Afghanistan. It landed at Kandahar Airport, which had one serviceable runway, a sort of ATC and a couple of shanties. The rest of the airport was in a shambles, without power and water supply, a trophy commemorating the Taliban’s rule.

On Christmas eve, after news of the hijacking broke, there was stunned all-round silence. But by noon on December 25, orchestrated protests outside the Prime Minister’s residence began, with women beating their chests and tearing their clothes. The crowd swelled by the hour as the day progressed.

Ms Brinda Karat came to commiserate with the relatives of the hostages who were camping outside the main gate of 7, Race Course Road. In fact, she became a regular visitor over the next few days. There was a steady clamour that the Government should pay any price to bring the hostages back home, safe and sound. This continued till December 30.

One evening, the Prime Minister asked his staff to let the families come in so that they could be told about the Government’s efforts to secure the hostages’ release. By then negotiations had begun and Mullah Omar had got into the act through his ‘Foreign Minister’, Muttavakil. The hijackers wanted 36 terrorists, held in various Indian jails, to be freed or else they would blow up the aircraft with the hostages.

No senior Minister in the CCS was willing to meet the families. Mr Jaswant Singh volunteered to do so. He asked me to accompany him to the canopy under which the families had gathered. Once there, we were literally mobbed. He tried to explain the situation but was shouted down.

“We want our relatives back. What difference does it make to us what you have to give the hijackers?” a man shouted. “We don’t care if you have to give away Kashmir,” a woman screamed and others took up the refrain, chanting: “Kashmir de do, kuchh bhi de do, hamare logon ko ghar wapas lao.” Another woman sobbed, “Mera beta… hai mera beta…” and made a great show of fainting of grief.

To his credit, Mr Jaswant Singh made bold to suggest that the Government had to keep the nation’s interest in mind, that we could not be seen to be giving in to the hijackers, or words to that effect, in chaste Hindi. That fetched him abuse and rebuke. “Bhaand me jaaye desh aur bhaand me jaaye desh ka hit. (To hell with the country and national interest),” many in the crowd shouted back. Stumped by the response, Mr Jaswant Singh could merely promise that the Government would do everything possible.

I do not remember the exact date, but sometime during the crisis, Mr Jaswant Singh was asked to hold a Press conference to brief the media. While the briefing was on at the Press Information Bureau hall in Shastri Bhavan, some families of the hostages barged in and started shouting slogans. They were led by one Sanjiv Chibber, who, I was later told, was a ‘noted surgeon’: He claimed six of his relatives were among the hostages.

Dr Chibber wanted all 36 terrorists named by the hijackers to be released immediately. He reminded everybody in the hall that in the past terrorists had been released from prison to secure the freedom of Ms Rubayya Sayeed, daughter of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, while he was Home Minister in VP Singh’s Government. “Why can’t you release the terrorists now when our relatives are being held hostage?” he demanded. And then we heard the familiar refrain: “Give away Kashmir, give them anything they want, we don’t give a damn.”

On another evening, there was a surprise visitor at the PMO: The widow of Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja, whose plane was shot down during the Kargil war. She insisted that she should be taken to meet the relatives of the hostages. At Race Course Road, she spoke to mediapersons and the hostages’ relatives, explaining why India must not be seen giving in to the hijackers, that it was a question of national honour, and gave her own example of fortitude in the face of adversity.

“She has become a widow, now she wants others to become widows. Who is she to lecture us? Yeh kahan se aayi?” someone shouted from the crowd. Others heckled her. The young widow stood her ground, displaying great dignity and courage. As the mood turned increasingly ugly, she had to be led away. Similar appeals were made by others who had lost their sons, husbands and fathers in the Kargil war that summer. Col Virendra Thapar, whose son Lt Vijayant Thapar was martyred in the war, made a fervent appeal for people to stand united against the hijackers. It fell on deaf ears.

The media made out that the overwhelming majority of Indians were with the relatives of the hostages and shared their view that no price was too big to secure the hostages’ freedom. The Congress kept on slyly insisting, “We are with the Government and will support whatever it does for a resolution of the crisis and to ensure the safety of the hostages. But the Government must explain its failure.” Harkishen Singh Surjeet and other Opposition politicians issued similar ambiguous statements.

By December 28, the Government’s negotiators had struck a deal with the hijackers: They would free the hostages in exchange of three dreaded terrorists — Maulana Masood Azhar, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Ahmed Omar Sheikh — facing various charges of terrorism.

The CCS met frequently, several times a day, and discussed the entire process threadbare. The Home Minister, the Defence Minister and the Foreign Minister, apart from the National Security Adviser and the Prime Minister, were present at every meeting. The deal was further fine-tuned, the Home Ministry completed the necessary paper work, and two Indian Airlines aircraft were placed on standby to ferry the terrorists to Kandahar and fetch the hostages.

On December 31, the two aircraft left Delhi airport early in the morning. Mr Jaswant Singh was on board one of them. Did his ministerial colleagues know that he would travel to Kandahar? More important, was the Prime Minister aware of it? The answer is both yes and no.

Mr Jaswant Singh had mentioned his decision to go to Kandahar to personally oversee the release of hostages and to ensure there was no last-minute problem. He was honour-bound to do so, he is believed to have said, since he had promised the relatives of the hostages that no harm would come their way. It is possible that nobody thought he was serious about his plan. It is equally possible that others turned on him when the ‘popular mood’ and the Congress turned against the Government for its ‘abject surrender’.

On New Year’s eve, the hostages were flown back to Delhi. By New Year’s day, the Government was under attack for giving in to the hijackers’ demand! Since then, this ‘shameful surrender’ is held against the NDA and Mr Jaswant Singh is painted as the villain of the piece.

Could the Kandahar episode have ended any other way? Were an Indian aircraft to be hijacked again, would we respond any differently? Not really. As a nation we do not have the guts to stand up to terrorism. We cannot take hits and suffer casualties. We start counting our dead even before a battle has been won or lost. We make a great show of honouring those who die on the battlefield and lionise brave hearts of history, but we do not want our children to follow in their footsteps.

We are, if truth be told, a nation of cowards who don’t have the courage to admit their weakness but are happy to blame a well-meaning politician who, perhaps, takes his regimental motto of ‘Izzat aur Iqbal’ rather too seriously.


Post Comment

Bullet What is the" truth behind kandhar?"
By Nakkiran on 1/2/2009 6:46:09 PM

The two vital questions in the Kandhar imbroglio have been :(1)" Did Jaswant Singh's ministerial colleagues know that he would travel to Kandhar?"; and (2) "Was the Prime Minister aware of it?"You have said :"The answer is both Yes and No!" Hence, the truth is not out yet!
One blogger has said that Jaswant had to go to ensure the release of a Swiss printer who had the original blocks of all important currencies in the world and who knew all currency secrets.

Bullet why delay in judgements??
By Anmol on 1/2/2009 3:03:44 PM

First we should analyze why this situation arised? Why these terrorists are kept alive.
Why can't we punish them quickly in special court.Even now after mumbai attacks why Kasav's hearing is done with normal procedures like identificaiton parade.Why can't we hang these terrorists on next day when they are captured.

Bullet Let them face it
By A.Seshagiri Rao on 12/30/2008 4:03:12 PM

Those who criticize Jaswant Sigh for his timely sane act, saving 166 passengers should be put in a flight and tell the terrorists to hijack it. Let them say whether they are ready to get blown up by the terrorists or agree to release them !. Those bestial Congress goons who killed more than 3000 Sikhs in broad day light cannot understand the ‘life’s importance or value’ . Even after losing their two Prime Ministers , they have not learnt any lesson nor stopped politicizing.

Bullet Response to "The truth behind Kandahar"
By Malavika Patil on 12/30/2008 4:02:12 PM

This episode should make it clear to the NDA folks the importance of having broadcast media which can present their point of view.

However, there is no denying that the sight of Jaswant Singh escorting terrorists quite shameful for the citizens.

Bullet Failure was at Amritsar, not Kandahar
By By Arvind on 12/30/2008 4:00:43 PM

The battle was lost when the plane took off from Amritsar. Many heads should have rolled for that failure. And seen to have rolled.

By By CHANDER SINGH on 12/30/2008 3:59:55 PM

Dear Sir,

I salute you to have brought out such a revealing piece of of information on Kandhar hijack epidode . I also saw CPM/ leader Sitaram Yechury jumping and crowing non-stop in front of P.M. House inciting people for shouting .However, with this clear revelation of facts ,it should be difficult for BJP spokespersons to articulate party's side / reponse to the people of India and the Media and the UPA most forcefully and convincingly.

Bullet The truth behind Kandahar
By Jetlag on 12/30/2008 3:59:07 PM

The role divisive of Brinda Karat and the CPM has not been adequately probed.
She is the one who is shrieking the loudest about the BJP giving in at Kandhar.

Bullet At last the truth has come out
By Bhanu on 12/30/2008 3:57:25 PM

Thank you Sir, for this timely article which showed the true 'mettle' of our countrymen. THE NDA GOVT DID NOT SURRENDER BUT WAS MADE TO DO SO BY A SHAMELESS PUBLIC, AN IMMORAL CONGRESS AND AN UNETHICAL MEDIA!

Bullet There can be no excuse
By Bhavananda on 12/30/2008 3:56:45 PM

Inspite of great appreciation for columns written by Kanchan Gupta, I must say that these "excuses" are completely unacceptable. NDA meekly bowed before the terrorists. This is a fact. The sooner the party apologizes, the better! No matter how fiercely the families of the hostages protested, no matter how hoarsely the human rightists shouted - it was the solemn duty of the eminent minister to remind them that the country comes first! Isn't that what nationalists do ?

Bullet Yes we are coward Nation.........
By VK Upadhyay on 12/30/2008 3:55:50 PM

I fully agree we are coward Nation. See the pattern of Terror strikes in Mumbai as well as different places or in Kandhar Plane Highjack -not a single person whether he was victim or survivor did not fight with or tried with terrorists ? Just surrenderd or got killed. Whatever wars we won with Pakistan all were imposed by Pakistan only than we defended ourselves. We Indian only react while other Acts. At the time of NDA world opinion were not in favour of India but today it is.

Bullet The Truth is more ugly
By Nesakumar on 12/30/2008 3:48:38 PM

What action was taken on the airport officials who didn't listen to Jaswant's pleadings? What action was taken on those who didn't convey the hijack information to the PM's pilot? What action was taken on the NSG officials who didn't reach in time? What lessons were learnt from these lapses?

Why the three released terrorists were not eliminated, mossad style? What action we took against the Pak Government which didn't cooperate?

Bullet Kandahar
By on 12/30/2008 3:47:45 PM

It might sound very nice from people chatting in the cosy environs of their drawing rooms sipping cups of warm coffee but it is quite another thing to gather courage and walk into the den of terrorists carrying nothing but the courage of your conviction. No Manmohan, No Pranab and most certainly no Patil would ever match the daring of what Janswant singh did then.

Bullet Yes 90 % of Indians are selfish.
By Ashish Mishra on 12/30/2008 3:42:12 PM

Yes 90 % of Indians are selfish and don't bother about national Interest. When we see our opportunity we don't think about nation. We don't pay taxes honestly. We only shout when we see that our interest reflects in national interest. Politicians, Film stars , Cricketers and common men never lighted a single candle when 100 people killed in Assam because they are not going to visit Assam.

And for elite they are making noise when they are think they are also a target.

By RAJESH K RANGA on 12/30/2008 3:41:15 PM

It might be prudent at that time to free the hostages physically, but could'nt they be put under some medication so that they could be 'brean-dead' or in-active after few days . At least the disasters they planned at later dates could have been avoided.

Bullet You cannot please all
By S Nath on 12/30/2008 3:40:36 PM

At the same time, it was also the weakness of the govt to succumb such pressures from these people. Do you expect any relatives to behave differently in such situation? No govt can please all and have to take action in the best interest of the nation. It was a twin edged sword and by refusing to release terrorists and taking a different action like commando operation etc, at least BJP could have claimed today that we were firm and were not soft on terror and terrorists.

Bullet NATION of cowards
By vijaykumar on 12/30/2008 3:39:50 PM




Bullet Kandhar
By ved on 12/30/2008 3:38:21 PM

It was sheer ineptitude and stupidity that the highjacked plane was allowed to fly again from Amritsar to Kandhhar. No excuses. The NDA was under BHANG at that crucial point. Rest is history.

Bullet The truth behind Kandahar
By By Ramesh on 12/30/2008 3:37:32 PM

Yes we are a nation of shameless people. In fact I discouraged youngsters from joining armed forces because they will be wasting their life for this nation.

Bullet IC-184 hijack
By By V V S Prasad on 12/30/2008 3:30:05 PM

I think what NDA government did was correct. They saved the lives of the people. If Masood was not released These people would have died. It should be noted that the hijacked plane was taken to Khandaar and not Mumbai.

If the UPA government had acted cleverly they would have saved many lives of Taj and Oberoi hotel guests and staff. Would the Government have acted in same manner if Lulu or Karunanidhi or Rahul gandhi were in Taj that time? It is a shame this government is not in a positio

Bullet shameful surrender
By By Anil V shringi on 12/30/2008 3:28:50 PM

One can give thousands of reasons, but 'remember' the end results become the history. And the history is very clear that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Jaswant Singh, Brijesh Mishra, L K Advani, George Fernandes were INCOMPETANT. This story tells a lot about WEAK/POOR adminstration, and unfortunately one can still see the same weakness with UPA Govt.

Bullet Brave Heart
By By Atindra on 12/30/2008 3:28:04 PM

It was series of unfortunate events but I knew about Jaswant's role since then. He is one of the bravest politician in present political system. It requires unimaginable guts to go into terrorist's den for the sake of your people without any security cover. His life was in danger. Congress would not have anything better, they paid crores of rupees to Somalian Pirates to ensure the release of Indian Crew members of Stolt Valor. So bravery-talk by congress, CPM and other is just hog-wash.

Bullet We are not cowards!
By By Rajeev Kumar on 12/30/2008 3:27:10 PM

Our hero's voices have been suppressed by Media. Terrorists are depicted as innocent & media plays that story 24x7. I find inspiration even in the survival story of News paper like Daily Pioneer. Kanchan Gupta Sir, is there something I can do besides writing comments & spreading that dailypioneer is really a pioneer? I am Software Executive in USA. Jai Hind

Bullet Kandhar
By By Ravi on 12/30/2008 3:25:50 PM

Apt and timely reminder by Kanchan Gupta. Cannot compare that event with the recent Mumbai attacks. Kandhar hijacjk began in a foriegn land (Nepal) and had to be concluded in Afganistan. Both locations were beyond India's control. The Amritsar event was difficult to control in the given situation.

Mumbai attacks were in our territory which is in our control. The failure of UPA govt to provide security should not be wrongly compared to the Kandhar episode.

Bullet Shame to call ourselves as “Indians”
By By Nivedita Dash on 12/30/2008 3:24:48 PM

I never knew about Kandhar Hijack issue in so detail. Thank you sir, for giving such extensive facts. We talk about terrorism, we hold dharnas demanding hanging of many terrorists who try to hamper our dignity because according to us it’s “our nation” dignity. But is it really true? No its not. Had this been true then we would not have shouted slogans outside PM’s house after Kandhar incident, just being so selfish and demanding our relative’s life at the cost of our country. We lack in every thing-courage, self-regulation and of course, patriotism.

Bullet What did others do to help ?
By By B Shah on 12/30/2008 3:23:33 PM

Why do we let terrorists live on in our jails ?

Once convicted, they should be executed. Why waste our resources on sustatining the lives of those who are agaisnt our nation ?

The fact that we had terrorists in jail meant they could ask for them !

There is an army post in Amritsar. There are others who could assist in that great city that prides itself on its martial heritage. YET, they did nothing ! Can they / will they take on the blame for their inaction?

Bullet The truth..
By By harish naik on 12/30/2008 3:22:30 PM

It was a revelation!!!!.what comments could one make on these revelers who go to nepal to gamble who are the most selfish and greedy people!! do they care about their country at all?

Bullet NDA must use media better
By By NM on 12/30/2008 3:21:37 PM

The NDA must use the media to let the people hear their views. The highly biased reporting that is prevalant in the english language media both print and visual adversely influences the thinking of people. How many are there who read the Pioneer. Even sitting in Pune I cant get the pioneer and have to read it online. U must increase circulation of this paper.

Bullet Nation of Cowards & Corrupts
By By Amar on 12/30/2008 3:18:49 PM

I just wanted to add one more point. Those cowards who wanted Indian government to trade terrorists for their relatives, did they thank NDA Government and stood with them when others finding fault with their tactics? Sadly, BIG NO! Because they have no gratitude, patriotism and integrity to support those who have helped them. Typical Rich-brates.

So, the moment the flight was hijacked for NDA it was always devil vs deep-sea!

By By SUNIL , Chandigarh on 12/30/2008 3:04:58 PM

The people should understand that the covert war of Islamic terrorism is not a conventional war, which we are fighting.In this war, some times you have to give an inch with the motto to win a yard.Our then,Foreign Minister did a right thing in accompanying the exchanged Jihadis.But than have we been able to give a meesage to the Jihadis and their supporters, who are in galore in the country, that none of them will be treated with velvet gloves.Knee jerk reactions won't help.

Bullet Hindus
By By Dr Ashok Kureela on 12/30/2008 3:03:54 PM

Please donot blame nation ,you can blame hindus who born coward and have no guts to defend the India.India is being defended by minorities and dalits.Hindus are making mony and running news papers.India is a nation within the nation unless hindus give equal rights to minorities and dalits you can not stand in front of world as a nation.

Bullet What does the article do for a BJP supporter?
By By P Gupta on 12/30/2008 3:02:46 PM

By indulging in comparisons to the questionable intentions and histrionics of the Congress and the Left, the article, unwittingly, undermines the BJP’s own abilities. As a BJP supporter, I hope the “nationalist” party strives to do more for the country than merely compete with the Congress and the Left.Everyone – or everyone with media access and an average memory—should remember the compelling circumstances under which the swap was made in Kandahar.

Bullet Vajpayee did not show leadership in a crisis
By By Prashant Rao on 12/30/2008 3:01:52 PM

In a crisis situation like the Kahdahar hijacking episode, the government of the day absolutely must show leadership and act in the larger interests of the nation and not be swayed by the effete newsmedia, self-serving politicians or grieving and cowardly relatives. There were several options open for the govt. including an address to the nation on the choices India faces all the way to declaring an emergency, muzzling the newsmedia and dispersing the relatives.

Bullet We surrendered for other reasons
By By R.Sajan on 12/30/2008 3:01:05 PM

It was because of the Swiss citizen among the hostages that we surrendered. He was printer of more than half the world's currency and held the original blocks and secrets of the world's currency system.

We were under international pressure to get him released before the hijackers came to know who he was. Had they known, we would have been forced by international finances to give away even Kashmir to ensure his safety.

Bullet Thanks for real story, which many ignored
By By A Jadav on 12/30/2008 3:00:07 PM

During 9/11 attacks, one hijacked plane by the islamist terrorists heading towards Washington fell down during the flight. Later it was reported that brave US passengers of the plane sacrificed themselves by attacking terrorists in mid air to save the Washington. Many people forgot that Congress and Comrades played dirty politics at the time. We need a firm policy of no negotiations. Need to teach kid, as a fresh start.

Bullet Oh Really?
By Pavementfreud on 12/30/2008 10:44:49 AM

Mr Gupta...Have you guys heard of how the French government dealt with the hijacking of an Air France airplane by Algerian terrorists? Learn monsieur learn how men deal with crisis situations!

Bullet Kandahar
By Savita Andurkar on 12/29/2008 12:05:48 AM

Sir, i don't understand this refrain that relatives spoke this and media said that and opposition was so cunning business. If you are in government, it your business to govern. governance is not about distributing laddoo and jalebis but acting tough and telling khari-khoti to janata. please, for gods sake, take responsibility for your actions. NDA govt is not alone in this matter. we have running soap since 1987. A much larger episode is on now and what are you doing meetings, analysis, diplomacy.

Bullet Don't you have shame to justify the incident!
By Indian on 12/28/2008 10:24:23 PM

After NDA came to power terrorism were on the rise, even after the incident no one from the cabinet were sacked, now the writer coming into public rescuing the cowardly decision made by PMO for releasing the terrorists.

Bullet Mr Gupta, Have you any decency left
By Prakash on 12/27/2008 1:17:37 AM

1. Your job at PMO in 1999 was media or press disinformation. You did a bad job then, if the episode was played in the media, as the way you described.
2. So, Brajesh was at the airport, because the Pilot of the hijacked aircraft conveyed through the established communication channels. Brajesh knew how to communicate with the PM through the similar route. Next door, Musharraf knew how to communicate from a PIA civilian aircraft to the armed forces on the ground in 1998.

Bullet Hijack
By Arup Roy Chowdhury on 12/26/2008 5:10:36 PM

“We want our relatives back. What difference does it make to us what you have to give the hijackers?” a man shouted. “We don’t care if you have to give away Kashmir,” a woman screamed and others took up the refrain, chanting: “Kashmir de do, kuchh bhi de do, hamare logon ko ghar wapas lao.” Another woman sobbed, “Mera beta… hai mera beta…” and made a great show of fainting of grief.

This is how India and Indians will deal with the war.

Bullet The problem is...
By Siddhartha Rastogi on 12/24/2008 9:11:01 PM

everybody wants a Bhagat Singh to be born but in the neighbor's house. We all want the nation to stand tall in face of a crisis but at personal front, we all are, indeed, a nation of cowards.
However, Mr. Gupta, does it also include the leadership of those fateful days, which surrendered before the threat of blowing the plane and succumbed to the pressure of those relatives? I expected at least from BJP to deliver more courageously.

Bullet right decision
By annian on 12/24/2008 9:08:36 PM

The release of Rubaya Sayeed had set the precedent. What is wrong if common people think that their people should also be released when the daughter of the VIP could be released by exchanging terrorists? Rule has to be same for all.

Bullet Lack of administration ability
By Peaceful Indian on 12/24/2008 9:04:32 PM

Why the NDA governement failed to stop the flight from Amritsar airport itself? Is it beacause of lack of administration skills at the crucial times? We are telling, we are one of the strongest nuclear power country in the world, but we don't have real guts when it comes to crisis situation. In every terrorists involved incidents, why the Commando's are reaching the incident spots after so many hours.... Then what is the use of having the NSG and other forces? Who needs to blame for this kind of delays?

Bullet Stop blaming others for NDA's failure
By Anurag Pathak on 12/24/2008 8:54:32 PM

Do not try to cover up a spineless government. Here we have a case of some mere airport officials in Amritsar not following the orders of a person no smaller than the Foreign Minister of India. Airport officials being Government employees, why were they not prosecuted for refusing to follow critical orders? Even the demonstrators outside the PM's residence, including Brinda Karat, should have been arrested for larger national interest and later prosecuted for treason.

Bullet nice attempt
By Amit on 12/24/2008 8:23:39 PM

a deliberate nice but unsuccessful attempt to portray Jaswant Singh as most patriotic minister of NDA government.....

Bullet By Kiran
By A bit harsh! on 12/24/2008 8:21:56 PM

The last para is unwaranted and self-loathing does not help. While the relatives of the hostages might have let everything go to a bhaad, the Government of India (whoever is in power) has no excuse to succumb to such emotional outbursts. What is needed is a policy that the nation is going to pursue in such situations. The trick is to make the policy apolitical. Politicising any and every issue is dragging this nation to the drains. All the parties need to get together and come to an understandin

Bullet Reply@ Kaushik Roy Chowdhury's comment
By Kanchan Gupt on 12/24/2008 8:17:40 PM

Dear Mr Kaushik Roy Chowdhury,

No, I was not afraid of losing my job! I could not have written about this issue earlier because of legal and related obligations. Also, the issue of whether the Government of India, irrespective of the party in power, would respond in a similar manner has been the subject of recent political and media commentary, so there was an immediate context.

Bullet Stop blaming others for NDA's failure
By Anurag Pathak on 12/24/2008 7:42:06 PM

Do not try to cover up a spineless government. Here we have a case of some mere airport officials in Amritsar not following the orders of a person no smaller than the Foreign Minister of India. Airport officials being Government employees, why were they not prosecuted for refusing to follow critical orders? Even the demonstrators outside the PM's residence, including Brinda Karat, should have been arrested for larger national interest and later prosecuted for treason.

Bullet The truth behind Kandahar
By Kaushik Roy Chowdhury on 12/24/2008 7:02:48 PM

Thanks Mr Gupta for tailing us the TRUE story. But my question is why so late? Why not after the Kandahar incident? At that point are you in a fear of losing your job? If so then you can understand that simply losing a job can worried you, so loosing the life is not a very easy thing.
Talking about facing the consequences of terrorism / external attacks, we have never been brought up like that, nor physically neither mentally.

Bullet Who makes India coward
By raina on 12/24/2008 7:01:02 PM

I was kid of four when 1971 war was fought. I was young adult when Punjab Terrorism started and spread to Kashmir. I have observed and bore the brunt in first hand. Congress was at helm of affairs. Media role always was a question mark. Punjab and Kashmir terrorism , a section of media would only be a mouthpiece of Ammnesty and other so called Human Rights activists. They would always break backbone of Security forces.

Bullet Nation of Coward
By Anuj on 12/24/2008 6:44:33 PM

I guess Mr Kanchan Gupta is right. Since the leaders come from the society, they are as coward as we are. We deserve the leaders we have.

Bullet Why care about image
By Arjun on 12/24/2008 6:42:23 PM

We should have let the hijackers know in no uncertain terms that we would execute all the terrorists in the same manner as they kill our people. The world opinion would be shocked. But isn't it always getting shocked all the time? So what? The article also highlights the sly, crooked game of the commie Brinda Karat. But you have not sufficiently highlighted the sorry role of the English language media.

Bullet Short term gain for long term pain!
By Col Vivek Bopiah (Retd) on 12/24/2008 6:37:54 PM

By releasing three top Kashmiri militants in exchange for 189 hostages we demonstrated how soft a state we are. Thanks to this one blunder sowed we have reaped many acts of terror since then.
Just 10 terrorists trained by these very released militants were able to massacre 200 and injure 300 people - more than the number involved in the Kandahar Hijack.
When will the Goverment ever learn that the softer you are the harder one gets hit.

Bullet naked - bitter truth
By gururaj bhat on 12/24/2008 5:25:12 PM

The last para is naked - bitter truth, as a nation we will stand up only when we now for real what a soldiers life is, i am giving this comment to post a possible solution to this cowardice, " if we make government sponsored youth movements like the NCC, NSS, CITIZEN'S DISASTER MANAGEMENT GROUPS more active by more budget allocation & providing efficient leadership, the youth & also their parents could be turned towards national interest rather moving towards communal organizations.

By DIPAK SHETH on 12/24/2008 5:18:24 PM

Before Kandahar I was thinking that BJP is better than CONGRESS and Vajpayee/ADVANI/JASWANT SING were strong leaders but the reality is that they are so weak leaders country ever had.

Bullet PM Wake Up ! ! !
By deepak on 12/24/2008 4:56:49 PM

As politicians are not aware of there responsibilities and this kind of incidents happen regularly why this issue 26/11 is so highlighted as the attack was on the Taj, Oberoi where high society people especially foreigners had been targeted and we were use to bomb blast in train, Taxi, Market place in Delhi where only common people were killed and some committee use to form by government and wait for the final verdict for years no quick action as 1999 Blast case is one of the example.

Bullet The truth behind Kandahar
By N.K.Jha on 12/24/2008 4:35:38 PM

There has been steady deterioration in the security scenario in the country.In 1999, the terrorists thought of hijacking.The episode was faulted on two counts-the culpable failure at Amritsar airport and the then PM remained unfortunately incommunicado for about two hours. In 2008, a bunch of younger terrorists entered Mumbai apparently without any hindrance and held the city to ransom for nearly sixty hours.

Bullet War is the only way out
By Dipak on 12/24/2008 4:34:43 PM

War is the only way out to deal with pakistan. It was wrong political decision of separating Pakistan from India as we loss land and faith and today Indian people are paying price with there life because they do not have any stable economy as EMPTY MIND IS DEVILS WORKSHOP it is something like that with Pakistan.

Bullet Kandahar Tragedy
By Dr. M. S. Thimmappa on 12/24/2008 4:23:04 PM

Very intimate account, the failure of our system and the patriotism, or absence of it, is lit large in your account. What worries me is that even now, since then, we are unprepared to face such eventualities as even in Bombay attack of 26/11/08 Commandos took time to reach because of lack of vehicle and traffic jam! I think given the circumstances and people's pressure smacking lack of patriotism, the Governement did the best possible in Kandahar.

Bullet Hamstrung by our ethics
By Bhuvan Chaturvedi on 12/24/2008 3:16:13 PM

Like the Rajput warriors of yore, we are hamstrung by our code of ethics and chivalry while dealing with an enemey who will use despicable methods like killing innocent civilians. Otherwise, the government could have turned the tables by threatening to kill all the 36 men whose release the hijackers wanted unless the hostages were released. Another idea could have been to inject the three terrorists who were eventually released with slow acting poison or strains of fatal diseases so that they wont liv longer.

Bullet The Truth
By Naveen on 12/24/2008 2:59:50 PM

I don't know whether this is the truth behind Kandahar or not, but we have to agree that we are cowards and are irresponsible towards our nation or society. Thats true. Hope it becomes a lie.

Bullet NDA should not be on the defensive on Kandahar
By Shankar on 12/24/2008 2:53:48 PM

Kandahar happened due to poor security at Tribhuvan Airport at Kathmandu. I t got aggravated due to poor handling at Amritsar airport. Unfortunately the media ran stories and created a national pressure. 148 precious lives had to be saved and there was a widow whose husband was killed in front of her. With lack of logistcal support storming kandahar was not possible. The Govt did the best thing. They traded minimum number of hostages for 148 passengers.

Bullet We deserve this!
By Venkat on 12/24/2008 2:52:48 PM

When Parliament was attacked, a drama was staged as Operation Parakram. Not one neta was harmed though.
But, after 200 people were brutally killed 3 weeks back, NOTHING has happened. Is this because common people were killed whose lives were less worthy???

NDA, UPA, Left whoever, ALL MINISTERS are self-serving shenanigans who move around with thousands of tax payer funded NSG commandos.

Bullet Its a Shame
By Notrick on 12/24/2008 12:11:26 PM

Due to those 178 Passengers and 11 Hostages - We have already had More then 5 terrorist attacks and more then 500 Known casualties and more then 1000 Unknown casualties. And to add to the killings, the terrorists are still at large. Had those 178 Passengers and 11 crew members in hostages have done something, or Government were not pressurized by the people (relatives) and Opposition, we culd have saved tons of life, National Dignity, Pain and what not. We ARE NOT PATRIOTIC ENOUGH. Its a shame

Bullet Acted under pressure
By Navneet (Chandigarh) on 12/24/2008 11:57:47 AM

But the way the families and relatives of the hostages created a drama by saying 'Kashmir de do, jo chahiye vo de do' in-fact shows the spirit of nationalism among Indian elite class which travels on planes. Let me tell you people India as a nation is first to us. Look what haapened in Mumbai after 9 years on 26/11 and who did it the same group of terrorists who were rescued to free the relatives of selfish and materialistic people.

Bullet Kandhahar
By Ashok K Sharma on 12/24/2008 11:54:33 AM

Only a coward by soul can blame Jaswant singh. He is the only couragios politician i have seen in recent times who have guts enough to risk his own life and go to the place like kandhahar where till date no rule of law prevails, only guns decide who is in charge of the affairs. It may argued indefinately never to be concluded that the passengers should have been rescued or left there to the mercy of heartless dreaded terrorists.

Bullet Agree
By Rahul on 12/24/2008 11:50:57 AM

Excellent article.

I always believed that releasing the terrorists to save the 200 Indians was right thing to do and any government would have done that. It would be suicidal to let so many Indians die just because we should sound pseudo-patriots by not releasing the terrorists. It is true that Jaswant Singh going there did the very right thing.

This episode had also sent the message: Send the terrorists to the gallows once their cases are over.

Bullet Media is puppet of congress and left
By shaily on 12/24/2008 11:36:39 AM

This is because Indian media is paid by missionaries from foreign country and congress as wll as left has their direct backing. BJP if it wants to servive will need to develop media which support their ideology of nationalism and storng hinduism not sold out media which is biased to minorities and indulge in hindu bashing in the name of secularism.

Bullet We are Indians
By Kalyan - the Indian on 12/24/2008 11:29:46 AM

I fully agree with the comments of the Author. We have lost so many heroes in the war and we have glorified, truly, their sacrifise as a national pride. But, this all gets restricted to sacrifise by our patriot soldier. But, when it come to common man - we show our "aam admi" colour. We can understand that anguish and misery the relative of a captive goes through. But, national interests are always and should always be above personal interest.

Bullet Nation of Cowards
By Amar on 12/24/2008 10:51:04 AM

Good piece of recollection on the ground realities of the Khandhar hijack episode. Though I understand the frustrations of family members, it was fueled by English Media and by the opposition worked in tandem with terrorist in securing the release of terrorists who again targeting many other innocents like them.

If NDA had taken a tough posture and had not released hostages then it would have become abject failure instead of surrender.

Bullet khandar Hijack
By Om Saini on 12/24/2008 10:49:21 AM

Very good article, stating the truth about us Indians. The average loyalty of an average Indian is limited to his immediate family and friends. No one cares for the nation. There are exceptions as well. I salute to those who are exceptions to this average. Thanks to Kanchan Gupta to remind us of facts as they are.

Bullet Thanks
By ashok on 12/24/2008 10:34:41 AM

Thanks for bringing out the truth. Else we would have blamed Mr. Jaswant Singh for accepting demands of hijackers.

Bullet The truth behind Kandahar
By Avinash K. Rangra on 12/24/2008 9:06:04 AM

A real, and a true Leader does not get swayed by voices inimical, and contrary to the general welfare of the Nation. NDA committed a moral sin by releasing terrorists. It was very obvious that opposition parties were pinching the raw nerves of the aggrieved. I believe Jaswant Singh exhibited very poor leadership. What kind of leader is afraid to talk to his own people?!

Bullet Should be given to congress and communists leaders to read and understand.
By Raju on 12/24/2008 8:46:49 AM

Thank you, Thank you Thank you, Mr. Kanchan Gupta for making this episode of hijacking readable to the general public at large as a first hand account. We the people of India should have to see the cc tv and video footages of Brinjal Carrot queing up for sheddding crocodile tears along with the people who were relatives of the people inside the hijacked plane and was acting as the real agent in catapulting for the shameful surrender of this great nation before the hijackers.

Bullet The truth behind Kandahar
By Krishen Kak on 12/24/2008 8:21:57 AM

An account that vey lucidly explains "the truth behind Kandahar". Thank you.

Bullet IC-814-Abject Surrender
By R. Viswanathan on 12/24/2008 7:55:40 AM

Yes, abject surrender. The event revealed many flaws in our national character and temperament. Pusillanimous rulers, selfish populace, irresponsible media, mischievous opposition. Yes, we shall do the same again.

Bullet NDA's decision was right at that time..
By Gopal on 12/24/2008 7:39:55 AM

Here I wopuld like to add few more points - People must undertand that Congress belives in divide and Rule. As everyone knows that it was an all party decision which was supported by the Congress as well. Secondly, our IC814 plane was in a hostile country run by Taliban where India could not have send the NSG commando to rescue the hostages. Thirdly, NDA was sensitive for the lives of 189 passengers on board.

Bullet Re: Vajapayee made a colossal blunder
By Doddi Buddi on 12/24/2008 7:04:08 AM

Dear Kanchan Gupta,

No amount of obfuscation can explain away NDA government's ineptitude in handling the IC814 hijack! It only exposed Vajapayee, Advani and Jaswant Singh as big softies who crumbled in the face 'public opinion'! I don't think we can let NDA get away with this one saying "hey we are a nation of softies; so we do act like this during times of crisis." Vajapayee had a chance to be a strong-willed PM. But in the end he was a just a weak-kneed politician.

Bullet Kandahar article
By Rama on 12/24/2008 6:04:21 AM

I agree with you sir, you have hit the nail on the head. India and Indians are a nation of cowards.The courage and patriotisim should come from the top, from our so called leaders. But, what do we have here? Only God can save India.

Bullet Truth about Kandahar
By Subodh Prabhu on 12/24/2008 6:01:40 AM

I can understand why Kanchan is angry and feels for Jaswant. My opinion about Jaswant has changed due to this article but I still feel giving in was wrong. Those few Indians who did not give a damn for the country should be told to get off, you know where. We should not care for such citizens.

Bullet Jaswant was wrong
By Chandra on 12/24/2008 5:56:22 AM

As a BJP supporter I was appalled by the decision and this article does not change my mind.

Bullet We are not cowards but we lack patriotism
By Asutosh Rai on 12/24/2008 4:24:19 AM

I must Thank Kanchan for sharing the hard truth of Kandahar. I disagree that we are a nation of cowards however I do agree that we lack patriotism. People do not join government to serve the country but they join to get a nice job where they can make good money.

Bullet Very true
By Amit on 12/24/2008 2:58:06 AM

We Indians lack guts, time and again in history this is clearly evident. Unfortunately we lack collective national conscience. On serious issues like terrorism ,the greed in us does not let us see beyond our personal ambitions at the cost of our nation. I can only hope I can some day see a strong and vibrant India that some of our ancestors dreamt of.

No comments: