"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." – Albert Einstein

Congress Leader Hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-410

December 20, 1978: Devendra Nath Pandey and Bhola Nath Pandey hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-410. They demanded the immediate release of Indian National Congress party leader Indira Gandhi who was imprisoned at that time on the charges of fraud and misconduct. Later, they were awarded with party tickets for this act by the Indira Gandhi government in 1980 such that Devendra Nath Pandey rose to become a minister in the government of most populous state of India, Uttar Pradesh. This case was also mentioned by Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale to justify his claim regarding the hypocrisy of the Indian government

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Contrary to what political parties might now proclaim, their record is not blemishless when it comes to hijackings. The Congress and the BJP have been guilty in the past of providing patronage to hijackers. While the Congress rewarded two hijackers with assembly tickets in Uttar Pradesh, Atal Behari Vajpayee was sympathetic to the hijacker who demanded the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya.

On January 23, 1993, Satish Chandra Pandey, a staunch Ram bhakt and BJP supporter from Sultanpur, hijacked a Delhi-bound Indian Airlines (IA) plane from Lucknow, holding 48 passengers hostage. He was protesting against the then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao’s assurance-soon after the demolition of the Babri Masjid-that "it will be reconstructed". "I flew into a rage," Satish said then. "I wanted to attract the attention of the government." Soon after hijacking the aircraft, Pandey got in touch with Vajpayee. He surrendered before Vajpayee.

Satish was imprisoned for four years and released on bail on the condition that he would present himself at Lucknow’s Sarojini Nagar police station each month the following year. The Lucknow police did not keep track of him after that. But Vajpayee did, according to The Sydney Morning Herald’s Christopher Kremmer. On June 27, 1996, Vajpayee wrote a letter to him on his official letterhead condoling Satish’s father’s death. "I share your grief. I pray to the Lord for your father’s soul and (to) give the family members the strengh to bear this," he wrote.

Bholanath Pandey, on his part, resents being called a hijacker. "It was purely a political protest for a great Indian leader (Indira Gandhi) who was sent to jail unfairly," he says of his December 20, 1978, adventure when he and Devendra Pandey, another diehard Indira loyalist, commandeered an IA flight as it flew over Aligarh. "We had no weapons and as we entered the cabin we announced our intention to the passengers," says Bholanath, who unsuccessfully contested the 1999 Lok Sabha elections from Salempur. The 132 passengers were held hostage for some hours before the two called it quits in the presence of the media. Soon after, both men became active Congressmen. Bholanath and Devendra were elected to the Vidhan Sabha in 1980. Bhola served as a Congress mla from 1980 to 1985 while Devendra remained a member of the house for two terms. Devendra, upcc general secretary till recently, is now nurturing Sultanpur constituency in the hope of a Congress ticket in the next elections. Even though the Congress has condemned the recent hijacking, it can’t gloss over the fact that it has been patronising hijackers.


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