New Delhi: IC814, Kandar and Captain Devi Sharan. Do these three names ring a bell? If it doesn’t, then just go back a few decades. IC814 was the Indian Airlines flight which was taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan in 1999. The images of Kabul airport in the past few days has reminded Devi Sharan of the horror he experiences when his flight was hijacked.
Various images and videos have appeared on social media where people can be seen crowding inside as well as outside the Kabul airport. They are scrambling to enter into planes on the runway in order to escape from the Taliban that took control of Afghanistan’s capital city Sunday.
“It was like I have gone 22 years back. Over 20 years have passed, but the images (of today) are the same,” Sharan, 59, said Friday. “The difference is that we were the only people at that time in Kandahar but now you can see a crowd at the (Kabul) airport. But definitely, these people are desperate to come out just like we wanted to come out,” Sharan added.
IC814 was heading from Kathmandu to New Delhi December 24, 1999. It had 179 passengers and 11 crew members on board –when it was hijacked. The aircraft was then taken to Taliban-controlled Kandahar by five Pakistani terrorists.
Sharan was the captain, Rajinder Kumar was the first officer and Anil Kumar Jaggia was the flight engineer of IC814.
The hijackers executed one passenger, Rupin Katyal. They finally negotiated the release of terrorists Masood Azhar, Syed Omar Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar from Indian jails December 31, 1999, in exchange for the hostages.
“I find the images to be quite like of that time. Definitely, it gives us all the memories of horror of that time. It reminds us of that,” Sharan said.
The former pilot said there were two kinds of Taliban forces that they encountered at the Kandahar airport. “One was Kabali. You can see these Talibanis with turbans and civil clothes and rocket launchers. They are like a moral police force. The other type was the commandos,” Sharan stated.
“These Kabalis, I would say, they were quite in favour of our hijackers. The commands were there only to ensure that there is no bloodshed there. They may have been with the hijackers but they were definitely not with us,” he added.
Sharan said no direct threat was issued by Taliban to him but ‘you can see the threat’ as these Kabalis had surrounded the aircraft with rocket launchers and all. “The threat was that they would not let us go without agreeing to the demands (of the hijackers),” Sharan pointed out.
Sharan was first asked by hijackers December 24, 1999 to take IC814 plane to Lahore. After Pakistan refused to let the flight land there, the aircraft was taken to Amritsar airport. Then, it was taken to Lahore, which allowed the plane to land this time at the last moment. Later, it departed from there and went to the Dubai airport, from where it was taken to Kandahar.
Sharan said he retired last year from Air India. Indian Airlines was merged with Air India in 2007. He said Jaggia passed away 7-8 years ago while Kumar is still with Air India.