Nepali Times
Hijack diary

Soon after Sanjay Dhital and Rosina were married, he had to be back at his job with a Japanese charity in Peshawar. So their journey was going to be like a honeymoon trip. Well, almost, for as they boarded IC 814 in Kathmandu on 24

Friday, 24 December

I couldn't get the PIA flight to Peshawar [via Karachi], so we had to fly Indian Airlines. The flight was two hours late. We took off and half an hour later were served lunch. I'd begun eating when I heard shouting "Heads down, don't move." Looking back, I saw three masked men running up the aisle. Two had pistols, the third, a grenade. They shouted in Hindi: "Don't move or we'll shoot." I stopped eating, put my head on my knees, shut my eyes and waited. An announcement came over the PA system: "The plane has been hijacked. Don't try to be smart. Keep your heads down. Or we'll shoot you." The captain came on: "We've been hijacked, try to be patient, obey instructions." We had to blindfold ourselves. The plane descended and landed somewhere. I thought: if there's a commando raid, it will be now. But we took off 25 minutes later. I was really scared. My wife began to cry, and I held her hand. The plane landed one more time, and took off again.

Saturday, 25 December

We landed for the fourth time. There was no way to tell where we were. We were made to sit at the back of the plane. We were given four biscuits each and water for lunch and asked if we needed to use the toilets. We could take the blindfolds off. It was difficult to hold back the tears. My wife glanced at me as I wiped away my tears. She ate two biscuits. There was total silence. Around 10 pm they brought food-hard rice, beans, water. It was very cold, and we heard later that the temperature outside was minus eight degrees. It was difficult to sleep.

Sunday, 26 December

I was very thirsty and asked one of the hijackers, a reasonable fellow called "Doctor", for water. He poured me a soda. They put our blindfolds back on, and in the afternoon gave us naan served on Afghan Airlines cutlery. I knew we must be in Afghanistan.

Monday, 27 December

The captain said: "No one has come to rescue us, the Indian government is doing nothing. I've asked for international help on CNN and BBC." The hijackers said: "Your government doesn't want you, why should you return? Let us all die together." They cursed the UN and the US saying Muslims are dying in Chechnya and no one is bothered. Around noon they said UN diplomats were coming from Islamabad. An Indian team was expected by evening. The hijackers looked more relaxed. We did not need to be blindfolded, and could talk softly. Deep within I was worried they had major demands. That evening, a passenger was asked to recite dialogues by Gabbar Singh [a character from an old Hindi film]. The atmosphere was lively at times.

Tuesday, 28 December

One hijacker was called Burger. Negotiations were on and he even joked a little.

Wednesday, 29 December

Biscuits for breakfast. Women got milk. The smell from the toilets was unbearable and I was worried about diarrhoea. Someone came to clean them, which was a relief. Burger interacted with passengers-women called him bhaiya [brother]. Talks were still on, and they served us chicken. For the first time, I could sleep today.

Thursday, 30 December

Suddenly, the atmosphere on the plane was different. Burger appeared with a megaphone and woke us up. "I have bad news, the talks aren't going anywhere. The Indian government didn't agree to our demands. There is only one thing we can do now-kill you and ourselves. Your government doesn't not care about you. We will begin killing you one by one. I may appear friendly, but I can be tough. Think about Allah, recite his name." This was it. After an hour Burger asked: "Does anyone want to eat?" No one spoke. Then Gajendra, a Nepali, asked for food. He ate well. At noon Burger went to see the chief. He returned after 15 minutes, smiling, "Salaam alaikum friends. At the Taliban's humble request, the Indian government is talking again. Pray to Allah." An hour and a half hour later, he appeared saying, "Congratulations, 80 percent of our demands have been met." We were relieved, and waited. Burger asked if we wanted to give the Taliban a token of our appreciation. We decided to present them with a model of the aircraft we were on with details of the hijacking. Burger said: "Brothers and sisters, please forgive us. We did not want to cause you all this trouble. Your families have suffered a lot. We want to hear that you've forgiven us." Everyone said in Hindi, we forgive you. Burger said "Have a good trip back," and stepped off the aircraft.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)