Sunday, January 2, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Hostages celebrate homecoming

NEW DELHI, Jan 1 (UNI) — For the freed hostages, it was yet another sleepless night yesterday. But for a different reason.

Capt D. Sharan, the pilot of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane, and other captives let off by the militants, danced and partied with family and friends last night to celebrate their homecoming and ring in the New Year. If it was tension ruling them for the past one week, now it was elation.

However, for Rachna Katyal, it was a night spent in shock after she was informed of the death of her husband, Rupin, at the hands of the air pirates.

Rachna, 20, whose husband was killed at the Amritsar airport on the Christmas-eve when the Kathmandu-New Delhi flight was hijacked, was told of the tragedy at around 11 pm, shortly after she arrived here after being in captivity for eight days.

However, for other hostages it was partying time for reasons more than one — homecoming and ringing in the New Year-cum-millennium.

At Captain Sharan’s house in the Indian Airlines colony in Vasant Vihar, there was a steady stream of visitors till late into the night.

“We were up till 4 am today. Even our two small daughters did not sleep. The celebrations continued the whole night,” said Captain Sharan’s wife, Navneet.

Captain Sharan, who after the hijack flew for nearly 20 hours and landed in four countries — India, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and finally Afghanistan — showed little signs of tiredness and fatigue. He went straight to home from the airport without going to a hospital and a doctor was not called at home also for a check-up.

A similar scene was on at Flight Purser Anil Sharma’s house. “It was a happy, sleepless night for us as our neighbours and relatives kept dropping in to see Anil and congratulate us on his return,” said his wife, Simmi.

For 58-year-old Anil Jagiya, the flight engineer and senior-most crew member aboard the hijacked plane, it was a more sedate homecoming. While he turned in early last night, the family was preparing to celebrate his homecoming today.

However, there was no respite from work for the crew even today. All of them were summoned early in the day by the Civil Aviation Ministry for a “de-briefing” session.

For the Nathani family, six of whose members were aboard the hijacked plane, the first day back home was to be spent in visiting a gurdwara, temple, church and mosque for an inter-religious thanksgiving, their relative, Dr Sanjiv Chibber said.

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