|HOME | NEWS | NIGHTMARE OF FLIGHT 814
December 26, 1999
'One of them started stabbing me...'
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
"I wonder about the fate of the others who are on board..."
Satnam Singh, this villager from Dasua in Punjab's Pathankot district, is happy that he and his family are out of Flight 814. But that doesn't stop him from worrying about his co-passengers.
"I am happy we have been released," said Singh, among the 26 passengers who were freed in Dubai. "But my friend and his wife are still on board. I appeal to the Government of India to ensure the safe release of the others."
Singh, who sustained injuries, is a farmer. It was his misfortune that he enlisted for a five-day tour to Kathmandu.
"This was the first time I thought, 'why not go for a holiday in Kathmandu along with the wife and children?' My friend Satish Kumar and his wife also joined us. We reached Kathmandu on December 19 and were returning home when the plane was hijacked," Singh said.
Seated in the middle, he was enjoying his lunch when the five tall, sturdy men announced that they had hijacked the plane, and that no one should move from their seats.
"They moved all the men up front and sent the women and children to the back. They were wearing jeans, T-shirts and sweaters. Their faces were covered with masks of various colours -- black, blue and red. They wore goggles. There was no way they could have been identified," Singh told rediff.com
The hijackers, he continued, spoke fluent English and Hindi without any accent. "They were considerate in the beginning and told us to raise our hands if we wanted anything. The airhostesses were giving us what we were asking for. They even gave blankets when we needed... But things changed when the plane landed at the Raja Sansi airport in Amritsar," Singh recollected.
There, the hijackers brought six passengers to the front. "I was the last one to be brought forward. They tied our hands behind out back, " Singh continued.
"When the authorities dilly-dallied about refuelling, they started a countdown. The moment they counted zero someone yelled, 'Kill him!' One of them started stabbing me. (Rupin) Katyal was right behind me... he was killed.
"I fell down and they thought I was dead. But later when I asked for water they gave it to me. They also brought a lady doctor on board to treat me. They said they did not want to kill anyone but the authorities forced them to do so," he said.
Singh, his wife Neena Kumari and their one-and-half-year-old son are the only family that has been released.
"When they released my wife, she looked at me and asked the hijackers to release me. She repeated the request a couple of times till they released me. I was the last one to come out of the plane at Dubai," Singh spoke on.
"Rupin Katyal's body was handed over later. The children who were released told me that the hijackers were very polite and even joked with them. But they would not let anyone look up," he recalled.
Does Rachana, Katyal's wife, know that he has been killed? "I doubt it. She might still be under the impression that he is alive," Singh said. "Until my wife saw me injured she didn't know I was hurt."
Asked if the hijackers were Afghani and Kashmiri militants, Singh said he had no clue. Neither did he have any idea why they did it.
"One of them said they were doing it as a last resort, that they did not want to take recourse to this. But why they said so, I have no idea," Singh said. "Once they took over they were in complete command and no one doubted about their intentions as they had a revolver and knives in their hands. They showed the revolver time and again."
Wasn't there any security arrangement at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu? "None worth the name," he replied. "I guess anyone could have walked in with anything. I do not recall having met any of the hijackers prior to the flight. Since I and my friend were with our families, hijacking was not at all on our minds. I hope my friend and his wife are also released soon."
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