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Home > News > The Hijack: One Year On Feedback  
  December 19, 2000
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  The hijack Line

'We could have been been killed any moment'
Arun Nathani, one of the passengers aboard Flight 814, recalls the hijack.

Arun Nathani, one of the passengers aboard Flight 814,
recalls the hijack.

Onkar Singh

On December 14, 1999, Arun Nathani celebrated his wedding anniversary. The next day, Arun, wife Alka, daughter Kanika, brother Rajesh, sister-in-law Seema and nephew Anshul left for Kathmandu on holiday. For the next nine days the Nathanis enjoyed themselves.

"We decided to return home by IC 814 on December 24. We were having snacks when two men got up and told everyone not to move. I was enjoying a glass of beer. When I heard them, mera nasha uthar gaya (I was instantly sober)," recalls the businessman from Dehra Dun.

A year later, he dismisses the hijack as a bad dream and carries on as if those seven days in December had not happened.

"It is over and behind us. But till we were released on December 31 we knew the hijackers meant business and we could have been killed any moment. On December 30 when they were frustrated in their attempt to get their demands accepted by the Indian government, they told us they were going to kill us. The restriction on our movement within the aircraft were re-imposed. It was touch and go. Anything could have happened. But we decided if worse comes to worst we would not give in without a fight. Some of us had made up our minds, but fortunately we never had to take on the hijackers," Nathani told

He is convinced the hijackers planted explosives aboard the aircraft before leaving the plane. "The hijackers were tense as the deadline neared. There was no communication whether the militants had been released or not. Then they heard they were coming. I asked one of them what they would do to us if the plane carrying the released terrorists met with an accident. 'Don't even mention such a possibility,' screamed one hijacker.

"When they saw a plane approaching the runway, they were wild with joy. They shouted "Woh aa gaye! Woh aa gaye" and ran up and down the aisle. Within minutes they disappeared from the aircraft and were not seen again. That was around 5 pm. Then Indians entered the plane and we knew we were safe," remembers Nathani.

He can recall the hijack in minute detail. Two of the five hijackers, he says, constantly patrolled the aircraft. "One passenger tried to get up and relax. One of the tall fellows came running and kicked the man in his head. Thereafter, nobody defied them. Rupin Katyal tried to do the same and he was killed. His wife Rachna had seen the blood-soaked jacket and suspected that her husband was dead. She kept crying throughout the seven days."

At Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport Nathani's son Aman waited for his father along with a relative, Dr Sanjiv Chibber. "Later, I heard what my son went through because six of us were on the plane. We were lucky to come out of trauma within 24 hours of being released. No sleepless nights, no screaming in the night about the terrorists... It was a close encounter with death for all of us on the plane. I would not want anyone to go through a similar situation. There were many who had given up hope of seeing their relatives again. The blood pressure of many went up during those seven days in custody.

"I have resolved I must keep fit all the time. You never know when you come across a bad situation. Since my family was with me I told myself we would die together. But I wondered about Aman who was alone. We are together now, enjoying life," he said jubilantly.

When Nathani now travels by air, he makes it a point to find out if all the security procedures have been followed. "On occasions," he says, "I have complained to the concerned authorities about lax security. I have become a bit fussy about security, but I guess anyone who has undergone an experience like this would do the same."

The Hijack: One Year On

The Nightmare of Flight 814: The complete coverage


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