Sonam Kapoor starrer ‘Neerja’ has made waves all over the world by shedding light on a forgotten story of valiance and sacrifice.
The Pan American World Airways Flight 73 hijacking saw 22 dead along with flight purser Neerja Bhanot.
If not for Neerja, the survival chances of the remaining 360 passengers and crew would have been impossible.
However, what remains to be told is the after-story. The hijackers have lived a life which deserves a sequel to the movie – sending out a strong message to terrorists. As the movie showed, the lights in the plane went out for 16 hours throwing off everything the hijackers planned. They wanted to blow themselves up along with the plane.
Initially arrested and given the death penalty, the hijackers (Palestinian Muslims fighting for their homeland) were given life imprisonment.
Zayd Hassan Abd al-Latif Masud al-Safarini, the lead hijacker, was handed over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in USA in 2001. He was taken to the US in 2004 and sentenced to jail for 160 years.
With a plea bargain, which was in exchange of pleading guilty and co-operating with the trial, Zayd was not hanged.
Survivors and martyrs’ relatives of the hijack flew from 50 countries to attend Zayd Safarini’s mass trial in Washington in 2004. They personally addressed the hijacker.
Prabhat Krishnaswamy, whose father was killed in the hijacking, said, “What we victims really want is to tear this man apart one limb at a time. But we believe in a system of laws.”
Back in 1996, Safarini had said that he doesn’t seek anything more than death.
“It doesn’t make any difference to us whether we die or live. On the contrary, we seek no more than death and martyrdom.”
However, after the 2004 trial, this is what he said when addressing the court:
“I am so sorry at what happened, so very very sorry… I take the responsibility for all the pain. My sorrow is from the depth of my heart. If you do not believe I am a person who has a heart, I accept that. I wish I had died on that plane. I am suffering … I sit in my cell. I have no hope. No feeling. I known I will die by myself, that I will never see my family again… I don’t hate America. Actually, I admire this country’s customs, their traditions, their freedom…”
That’s not all though. He also acknowledged how he was brainwashed by a terrorist organization in the name of his homeland:
“When I did this, I believed I was helping the Palestinian people’s dream of a homeland. Now I quite believe that the organization (Abu Nidal) — this was not their aim. I know I was used, and so were the others. I was wrong. I was at fault. I was wrong, and the victims who fell were innocent people. I was brainwashed.”
The story is a fine example of reformation and sends out a strong message to the youth swimming away in the wrong idea of martyrdom.
Even though Saffirini stays in solitary confinement, his words have given a kind of closure to the victims . The judiciary tried to make him feel remorseful and by giving him a plea bargain, it was successful in erasing the fallacious idea of ‘fighting for the homeland’. This is what each country needs today.
A death penalty cannot do much good to either society or criminals. However, reformation can bring about a change in innocent minds of budding terrorists.