It was 1971, a time of political unrest and separatist movements in the Indian subcontinent. During this turbulent era, an incident occurred that would go down in history as one of the most audacious acts of terrorism – the 1971 Indian Airlines hijacking . This article delves deep into the details of the hijacking. And exploring the planning, burning, and aftermath of this infamous event that had far-reaching consequences for both India and Pakistan.

Planning the Hijack

The seeds of the Indian Airlines hijack were sown in the early 1970s when Hashim Qureshi, a resident of Srinagar, Kashmir, joined the National Liberation Front (NLF), a militant organization fighting for Kashmiri independence. Inspired by the Dawson’s Field hijackings carried out by Palestinian militants, the NLF devised a plan to hijack an Indian Airlines aircraft to draw international attention to their cause. Qureshi and his cousin Ashraf Qureshi chose to execute the hijacking. Despite facing setbacks and arrests, the Qureshis remained determined and eventually hijacked an Indian Airlines aircraft named Ganga on January 30, 1971.

The Burning of Ganga

After successfully hijacking the aircraft, the hijackers landed at Lahore Airport in Pakistan, demanding the release of 36 NLF prisoners in Indian jails. However, under pressure from airport authorities, they released all the passengers and crew members. In a twist of fate, the hijackers realized their mistake – they had failed to recognize the importance of the passengers compared to the aircraft itself. The plane, Ganga, remained on the tarmac for eighty hours, during which Pakistani security personnel thoroughly searched it and removed any incriminating evidence. Finally, on the authorities’ advice, Hashim Qureshi decided to burn the aircraft, effectively destroying the physical evidence of the hijacking.

The Crackdown and Its Aftermath

The Indian government reacted swiftly to the hijacking, imposing a ban on overflights of Pakistani aircraft over Indian territory. This ban had significant implications, especially in the impending December 1971 war between India and Pakistan. Pakistan, in turn, charged the hijackers and other NLF militants with conspiracy, launching a crackdown that severely weakened the militant organization. One of the key figures in the movement, Amanullah Khan, moved to Britain and established a new organization called the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. The crackdown also had repercussions for the Plebiscite Front, with its leader, Khan. And many of its members facing imprisonment and accusations of being Indian agents.

The Impact on Kashmir and Beyond

The aftermath of the Indian Airlines hijack had far-reaching consequences for the hijackers, the NLF, and the broader Kashmiri independence movement. The crackdown on the NLF weakened the militant organization, forcing its leaders to seek refuge in other countries. Amanullah Khan and Abdul Khaliq Ansari, prominent figures in the Plebiscite Front, moved to the UK, where they found support from the Mirpuri diaspora. Khan transformed the UK branch of the Plebiscite Front into a new organization called the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, which would play a significant role in the Kashmir insurgency of the 1980s.

The Indian Airlines hijack of 1971 has captured the attention of filmmakers, with a movie titled “IB71” released in May 2023. Starring Vidyut Jammwal, the film brings the hijacking events to the silver screen, offering a cinematic interpretation of this historic incident.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What were the 1971 Indian Airlines Hijackings? 

The 1971 Indian Airlines Hijackings were incidents in which individuals with political motives hijacked multiple Indian Airlines flights.

2. How many hijackings took place in 1971? 

There were a total of four hijackings that took place in 1971.

3. What was the motive behind the hijackings? 

The hijackings were carried out by individuals seeking to release political prisoners and draw attention to their political cause.

4. Which airlines were affected by the hijackings? 

Indian Airlines was the airline concerned by the hijackings in 1971.

5. Were there any casualties during the hijackings? 

Yes, there were casualties during the hijackings. Both passengers and crew members lost their lives in these incidents.

6. How were the hijackings resolved? 

The Indian government contacted the attackers to regain passengers and crew members. In some cases, the hijackers’ demands were met.

A Closer Look at the 1971 Indian Airlines Hijackings_ What Transpired

7. What measures were implemented after the hijackings? 

Following the hijackings, security measures strengthen at airports and onboard flights to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Some of the hijackers apprehend and faced legal consequences for their actions. They charge and prosecute under relevant laws.

9. How did the hijackings impact Indian aviation? 

The hijackings had a significant impact on Indian aviation. It led to reassessing security protocols and implementing stricter measures to ensure passenger safety.

10. Have there been any hijackings of Indian Airlines since 1971? 

There have been no significant hijackings of Indian Airlines since the incidents 1971. The improved security measures have helped prevent such incidents.

The Indian Airlines hijack 1971 remains etched in the annals of history as a brazen act of terrorism. That had profound implications for the Kashmiri independence movement and the relationship between India and Pakistan. The planning, execution, and aftermath of the hijacking shed light on the complexities of the political landscape in the Indian subcontinent during that time. As we reflect on this incident, we are reminded of the lasting impact that acts of terrorism can have on individuals, communities, and nations.

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