Wednesday, December 1, 2010

10 yrs on, cops fail to nail those caught for funding Kandahar

This is no compliment to the Mumbai Police. More than a decade after the Kandahar plane hijacking, two men - already convicted for their role in it - are among three recently acquitted by the Sessions Court.

The trio was being tried for the theft of a van used in a bank heist that allegedly funded the hijack.

The prosecution’s case for the vehicle robbery before the City Sessions Court failed because the sole eyewitness could not be traced. This acquittal has also put the connected case of the subsequent bank robbery at risk.

The prosecution’s story is that on October 6, 1999, two armed men robbed a white Maruti van belonging to Mohan Bangera.

The hijacked plane was forced to land in Afghanistan

It was parked next to the Orlem Church bus-stop at Malad and the driver was fixing the van’s rear-view mirror when Abdul Latif, Bhopalmann Khan and Mushtaq Ahmed Azmi allegedly dragged him out at gunpoint and fled with the vehicle.

Latif and Khan were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008 by a special Patiala court for their role in the IC-814 hijack.

In the second case, the trial for which is under way, the prosecution alleges that that the trio used this car to rob Borivali’s Maharashtra bank of Rs 7.72 lakh on October 30, 1999.

The bank heist was allegedly pulled off along with three Pakistani nationals and the car was later found abandoned. On December 30, the police arrested five accused - one Pakistani is still wanted - from Jogeshwari’s Behram Baug.

They recovered Rs 1.72 lakh from them. The remaining Rs 7 lakh is believed to have been sent to the hijackers in Pakistan for the hijacking.

The police had also recovered two AK-56 rifles, 30 live rounds, hand grenades and rocket launchers from them.

Success in the second case is partly dependent on the first. The prosecution could not prove the car theft because the police are unable to trace the sole eyewitness, the driver.

The owner of the car Bangera has passed away. The testimonies of a panch witness and three cops weren’t of any help in establishing the case. Assistant Sessions Judge M J Mirza on Tuesday acquitted the trio.

Article source : Mumbai mirror

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

S M Krishna to visit Pakistan on July 15

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna will visit Islamabad on July 15 for talks with his Pakistan counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi to work out the modalities for carrying forward the dialogue process to discuss outstanding issues in an atmosphere of mutual trust.

After a 25-minute telephonic conversation between the two ministers today, Krishna told reporters that Qureshi had invited him to visit Islamabad on July 15 and he looked forward to the talks.

"The Foreign Minister of Pakistan has invited me to visit Islamabad on July 15. So I am planning to visitIslamabad for my talks with Foreign Minister Qureshi," he said.

"I am looking forward to these talks and let us hope that these talks will help in bringing our countries closer together and bringing between the two countries the cordiality we desire and let us hope that our efforts will be fruitful," he said.

Krishna said he and Qureshi will work out the methodology to carry forward the dialogue between the two countries so that all outstanding issues could be discussed in an atmosphere of "mutual trust".

He said the Prime Ministers of both the countries had, after their meeting in Thimpu last month, asked the Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries to meet as soon as possible and discuss ways to reduce "trust deficit".

On Thursday, Krishna had said in Rajya Sabha that India had decided to have a dialogue as there has been a "transformation" in ties with assurance coming at the level of Pakistan Prime Minister that India's "core concern" with regard to terrorism would be addressed adequately.

In Islamabad, Qureshi today made it clear that the two sides were going to the talks with an open mind and positive approach without having any false hopes.

"I will not create any false hopes. I am an optimist yet a realist. I recognise the challenges, I recognise the difficulties. I recognise the trust deficit. It is an uphill task. Don't expect miracles overnight. Good thing is that on both sides we have democracies and democracies believe in negotiations, talks and parleys," he said adding "we had a very good discussion and we will build on it. There is no quick fixes."

His response came on being asked about the two sides reportedly having come close to a deal on issues related to Siachen and Sir Creek during the earlier dialogue process.

Qureshi said he would be seeking guidance from Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on the substantive issues.

He said the approach of Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Gilani was "very productive" and their interaction in Thimphu was "frank, cordial and forward looking".

"We will discuss all issues of concern to India and Pakistan. There was no discussion on structure. I am presuming both sides are comfortable. Structure is in place," Qureshi said.

"We will have to sit and resolve. We will not allow acts of terrorism to impede the process. We will have to build on it to a level that it (dialogue process) becomes irreversible," he said.

He said there was no bar on bringing to the table issues of mutual concern like the water dispute.

Qureshi said he had seen the Indian minister's statement in Rajya Sabha last week which he considered "positive and forward looking".

Ahead of Krishna's visit, Home Minister P Chidambaram is slated to visit Islamabad on June 26 to attend a meeting of Home Ministers from SAARC countries. Qureshi said Chidambaram would meet with his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the SAARC meeting. 

The composite dialogue process covering Kashmir and other outstanding issues was stalled in the wake of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.

The Singh-Gilani meeting on the sidelines of SAARC Summit in Thimphu was the first substantive dialogue between the two countries since they met in Sharm-el-Shaikh in Egypt in July last year.

Bringing in thaw in bilateral relations, Singh and Gilani in Thimphu had agreed to resume dialogue at the level of Foreign Ministers soon that could lead to parleys on all outstanding issues like terrorism, Kashmir and Siachen.

The two leaders had entrusted the Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries with the responsibility of restoring confidence and trust in the relations that could pave the way for substantive dialogue on outstanding issues of mutual concern.

Singh had then conveyed India's deep and continuing concern over the fact that 26/11 mastermind and Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed was being allowed to roam freely and engage in language and communications that are certainly not conducive to the atmosphere of peace and stability.

Gilani had assured Singh that his government was making all efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks and not to allow Pakistani soil to be used for terrorism against India.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Judge keeps in mind Kandahar case to hang Kasab

One of the reasons cited by the 26/11 special court to award death penalty on Ajmal Kasab for his role in terror attacks was that keeping him alive would be a lingering danger to India, keeping in mind the 1999 Kandahar plane hijacking case.

"Keeping Kasab alive would be a constant and lingering danger to the society and Indian government," Judge M L Tahilayani said and cited the December 1999 Kandahar plane hijack case in which three dreaded terrorists were released by India to rescue the passengers of the flight.

"If Kasab is kept alive, then this situation may occur again," the judge said adding the recent trend of terrorism is evolving.

The court also said the probability of Kasab reforming was ruled out considering the barbaric manner in which he has behaved.

Kasab was awarded the death penalty on five counts of murder, abetment to murder, conspiracy, waging war against India and committing terror acts.

He was further sentenced to life imprisonment on five counts of attempt to murder, conspiracy to wage war, collecting arms to wage war, kidnapping with an intention to murder and causing explosion to endanger life.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

IC 814 Hijack Documentary


Five hijackers clockwise from top
1.Sunny Ahmed Kazi
2.Shahid Akhtar Sayed
3.Ibrahim Azhar
4.Mistri Zahur Ibrahim

Nukkad -My experiences aboard IC-814

I was travelling along with my younger brother Vikram, who happens to be a Final
Profession, MBBS student at Govt. Medical
college, Patiala.

Dec 24, 1999

The first sight of those hijackers, was a little hard to digest, and so I
continued eating the food served in the airplane
and waited for the Pilot to announce that it was a (christmas-eve!!) joke. The
pilot's voice crackled over the expectant
atmosphere, "This is the captain speaking. We have been hijacked. It is in your
best interests to co-operate with the
What ensued is all nebulous... Our food trays were chucked away, we were asked
to bend over and wait. The airhostesses
proceeded to put away the food trolleys. Then strange things began happening.
The airhostesses were instructed to take out
all the luggage kept in the overhead cabins and throw them in the aisles. Then
they proceeded to throw all the accumulated
luggage into the executive class, and the people in the executive class were
shoved into the economy sector. I looked from
the corner of my eyes, in an attempt to look at the hijackers. There were two of
them, both had black Balaclava (monkey caps)
on, and held one pistol each. One of them had a grenade and was in a ready
stance to use it if need be... Sinister enough
to scare the living daylights out of me, and the rest of the passengers.

They talked about making it the 'Millennium flight', but the millennium was
still a week away, I thought!!! Little did I
know that we were to approach the millennium, in that very flight.
The airhostesses were next instructed to blindfold everybody. The took the cloth
placed on the backrest of the seats, and
made feeble attempts to tie them on the eyes of all the men. The women were
spared. A proper search was made if any one was
in possession of any weapons or arms. Another hijacker appeared with a knife in
his hand. The lights were switched off.
We whispered to each other, how many were there?. I gave Vikram a commentary of
who was where, and what were they doing.
I looked at my watch and realized we were already past the expected arrival
time. I wondered if my parents knew what was
happening. I hoped not!!!
We waited and waited, and then at close to 7:00pm, we began to descend. I was
terrified that we would crash, but with a
jarring jolt we landed and we let out a sigh of relief. Still don't know what
they want. But we were somewhere!!

Sometime later we took off again. Were we disappointed!! we wondered where were
we going, and why didn't they go there
directly??? Time passed. The hijackers kept running up and down the aisle
shouting at someone, making someone bend down
further, berating someone for adjusting his blindfold.

Dec 25, 1999

We landed again, and then took off, and then landed yet again, and finally the
next morning landed at yet another
destination and the engines were switched off. Each landing made me wince, as I
anticipated a crash, and each take off,
made my heart sink, that yet again we were aflight, going to God knows which

We had no idea who these hijackers were, and what they wanted by the second day
morning. But slowly as they spoke, we
realized that they used a lot of urdu words, and guessed that they were
kashmiris. We had had no food, and were short
on water. We were asked to safeguard our glasses, as no more would be given.

The hijackers rearranged all the passengers. The made the couples sit in the
very rear, and the separated the men
travelling alone. There were kids on board, and they didn't realize the gravity
of the situation. We were shifted to the
seat right next to last exit. I took hold of the airline's emergency manual
which explained how to open the exit doors,
just in case!!!!

We agreed that there were four of them, and they told us nothing as to where we
were. Someone said Dubai, and someone
said Pakistan. We hoped it was Dubai!! The hijackers didn't let anybody move.
They mandated that everyone who wanted water
or go to the toilet, raise his hand, and then they would decide they would allow

Soon we exhausted the drinking water, and the airhostesses distributed beer
cans, and tonic water. The toilets had become
dysfunctional with no water in the taps or the flush, and it was becoming
increasingly difficult to use them We decided
to take in minimum water. We had had no food for atleast 30 hours now.

We talked to our neighbors, and introduced ourselves. We heard about this guy
who had got off, leaving his newly wed wife
aboard. We were to learn later that his name was Ripen Katyal, and he hadn't
left her alone, he had been killed. But at that
point we were oblivious to all this, and saw Rachna move around with another
newly we couple. They took good care of her.
The hijackers assured us that they were trying to procure food for us, but
because of Ramazan, it was difficult. Finally
at nightfall, food was pulled up. First the spoons were distributed with the
instructions to retain them as no more would
be made available. The spoons read 'Specially made for Ariana'. I was trying to
recall which country did Ariana belong to,
when my eyes fell on the Arabic script below the english one, which read 'Afghan
watan', and it sank in that we were in
Afghanistan. This knowledge, made us feel all the more desolate. Food was
distributed and there was rice with a little
dryfruit thrown in. Keeping our precious spoons and glasses at safe place, we
fell into a troubled sleep, but not before
realize that it was Christmas...

Dec 26, 1999

Woke up in the wee hours of the morning. The stench of the toilets had
transgressed the confines of the toilet and was
an assault on the senses of the passengers unfortunate enough to be sitting in
the last rows. We were not far away, and
slowly we got used to the everpresent odors.

Breakfast was brought in, scrambled eggs with Naan. People talked to their
neighbors for comfort. The eggs were dripping
in oil, and I vomited after a few bites. Vikram tried to convince me to eat some
but the nausea had set in and I couldn't
eat anything. I went to the doctor and got a few medicines from her. I took one
tablet with minimal water, and immediately
proceeded to throw up again. I lay back, thinking about what my parents would be
going through. Nothing else bothered me
more than this thought. What would finally happen to the two of us, would happen
instantaneous, but what my parents and
family would go through would be really torturous. I started feeling immensely
guilty coz it was my idea to go to
Kathmandu and take Vikram along.

The hijackers had started to relax a little. They chatted up a few people, and
seemed to talk with ease. Then in the
afternoon, they came into the economy class and proceeded to tell us that the
Indian Govt. was not in the least interested
in our release. The number of foreigners on board was close to 15-20 and already
their govt. had sent delegates for their
release, we were informed. But the Indian Govt. was not the least bothered. They
did manage to accomplish what they wanted.
People started talking about how lousy our govt. was, and the general atmosphere
was of discontent. They proceeded to tell
us about the atrocities that the Indian Army had inflicted on the Kashmiris.
They maintained that Kashmir belonged neither
to India nor to Pakistan, and that their `maqsad' (intent) was to liberate
Kashmir. The kashmiris in Indian jails, according
to them were innocent people.

By nightfall, the atmosphere had again become a little cool. Food was served
again. The naans and the non-veg.(don't know
what it was!!) was becoming unbearable. So people tried for vegetarian food. It
was just one orange for two people. We tried
eating the non-veg. food, and gave up after a few bites, though we saved it
incase we need it later on. Water was scarce.
We drank a little, and then saved a little. Lights were switched off, a clear
signal that we were expected to sleep, and
sleep we did.

Dec 27, 1999

We had lost track of time. Another morning, some more oily breakfast. We didn't
take the egg this time. Opted to share an
orange between ourselves. The hijackers seemed irritated. So were the
passengers. The Indian delegation was scheduled to
arrive soon, and then maybe something would happen. We waited and waited. Talked
to our neighbors about who did they have
back home. What were they doing in Kathmandu? We were surrounded by couples who
had gone to Kathmandu on their honeymoon,
and now they were here.

The hijackers came out in the afternoon, and told us that the Indian delegated
had come here to shop for dry fruit, not
for our release. The made fun of Jaswant Singh, and of the delegates in general.
They also seemed to irritated by the UN
officials. They talked a lot against the UN turning a blind eye to the muslims
being killed in Chechneya. The hijackers
were an educated lot. The conversed in English with the foreigners.

There were a few light moments too. One of the Japanese passengers seemed to
have accepted this as a way of life. She was
to attend a conference in India and continued preparing for the same. She had
hidden a bottle of vodka at the back, and at
the pretence of going to the toilet she would have a swig or two. She had an
alarm clock and would set it up to wake in the
morning, and also used to try and exercise a little bit. The hijackers tried to
make her listen to them, even forcibly made
her sit down in her seat, but she wouldn't listen. They let men go to the
backside and smoke a little, but forbade the same
for women. When she tried to go they made her sit back. So she smuggled a
cigarette to the toilet. Finally they gave up,
and she continued with her life.
Another day went by, and we still waited. The days seemed to merge with each
other, and we fell asleep again, in the hope
that tomorrows dawn may bring some better news.

Dec 28, 1999

Tuesday morning. The toilets had become unbearable. People going to use them
would carry the stink with them. A few people
had gone to the executive section to get medicines from their luggage. Some had
got perfumes and deodorants and proceeded to spray themselves with the same to
overcome the stench. We people sitting in the extreme end, couldn't do much.
Food today seemed to be a problem. People didn't want to eat non-veg. as it was
Tuesday and very little veg. food was
available. So some people compromised. Many others were insistent on veg. food.
Many had to go without food. Even in the
face of death, some people didn't adjust. We took our share of non-veg. food,
and proceeded to add it to our stock of
food. Very few people ate the food.

The hijackers seemed to be getting nowhere with the delegation. They would
incite the people onboard against the Indian
Govt. Vikram talked of Stockholm syndrome, and it seemed to be setting in.
People seemed to identify with the hijackers
and their problems, and talked to them about how they were ashamed to be
Indians. Some of them even went to the extent of
promising the hijackers that once they got off the plane, they would also do
something for the Kashmiri cause.

We tried to stay aloof, and hardly conversed with them unless absolutely
necessary. Food was brought in for the night.
People again proceeded, to fight for veg. food. We took our share, and went to
sleep. Very uncomfortable sleep. I tried to
make it comfortable for Vikram, but due to his 6ft tall frame, he had a tough
time. Finally I gave up, and fell asleep.

Dec 29, 1999

Two of the four toilets had become un-enterable. I used the other one. With
great difficulty I got out without throwing up.
Came back to my seat, and by force of habit, looked at my watch. Only 7:30 am
(IST). At 8:00am the hijackers started to
rouse the people from their sleep, something they had never done so far. 'Bahut
so liye' they said and seemed angry.

Our gravest fears were confirmed when they told us that all talks had broken
off. The Indian Govt. didn't want to free us.
They claimed that the Indian Govt. thought this was a joke. So to show the
Indian Govt. what was in store for them, they
are going to kill the hostages one by one. A very scary thought indeed... coz
the first question which came to everyone's
mind was 'Which one first???'.

The doors of the aircraft were opened to allow fresh air in. The stench now
filled the major part of the aircraft. The
fresh air was welcome relief. It was only later on we learnt that the doors were
opened because they couldn't kill in
closed places.

No one spoke. Grim faces looked at each other. We wondered how they would decide
who first. Vikram guessed that they
would begin with passengers travelling alone. Some women silently prayed. We
waited, but this time the wait was different.

By late afternoon, one of the hijackers, informed us that the Taliban chief, the
Amir, had 'requested' them to resume
talks, and they couldn't refuse him, coz they respected him a lot. So talks
would resume. The doors were shut again. The
stench was more welcome than the prospect of imminent death.

The hijackers seemed to be in better mood. Food was brought in. This time people
didn't want to eat. Pepsi's were
distributed. One pepsi for two people. 'Made in Pakistan' the Pepsi cans read.
Suddenly the hijackers made an announcement that all sick people should move to
the executive class. Some people were not
well, and they went. And then some pretended to be ill. They were all sent
ahead. This seemed to demoralize the people who
were left behind. The question which seemed upper most in everyone's mind was, '
Will they be released first?'.

The passengers were rearranged again. We found ourselves amidst new neighbors.
As the rearrangements were finished, one
of the guys at the back broke down. Now this was an ordinary occurrence, coz
time after time, one or the other person
would break down, generally women, and they would be comforted and told to be
patient and strong. But this person who
had broken down was our erstwhile neighbor. He got hold of one of the hijackers
and begged him to shoot him. He said he
couldn't bear this strange suspense any more. My heart went out to him, and I
started to cry for the very first time
during this entire ordeal. Vikram, comforted me and asked me to be brave, and
control myself. The hijacker told him that
he would be sent home, and that he would ensure the same. He gave him what he
called a 'muslims promise'. That very person
who was threatening to kill people one by one, coz his demands were not being

We found our new seats very stuffy. Changed over to the window (shut of course)
seats. And discovered this person who was
sitting alone and crying. One of girls was calling out to him from her seat, and
asking him to take heart. I went and sat
with him and talked to him for some time. He had been there with Ripen Katyal
and had seen him being killed. He was
terrified, and alone. It would have been so difficult to have seen so much and
then have to sit all by himself. After
some time, Vikram took over and spent some with him. He was better by nightfall.
We talked about his family, and he told
us that he had a four month daughter back home. Finally we again fell asleep,
only thing we could do.

There is one thing I must admit here. I would go to sleep each night with the
hope that when I wake up the next morning,
the hijackers would be gone. I guess it was my way of reassuring myself that
things will be alright, and it is alright to

Dec 30 1999

Morning, and the usual hijackers standing poised to greet us. Some food was
brought in. There was milk, and two people
were given one tetrapack to share. The hijackers were in a better mood, and
seemed to be eating well. One of the hijackers
wasn't sleeping well, or so the redness of his eyes seemed to indicate. This was
the seventh day, and I could only think
of the moment when I would open the gates of my residence to step in. It was a
beautiful thought, and I often thought of
it when things seemed a little optimistic.

The people who had been sent to the executive class were sent back, and we went
back to our old seats, and to our previous
neighbours.One of the hijackers said he had good news. About 80% of the talks
were finalized. People cheered. He was the
hero it seemed to them. The hijackers praised the Taliban Govt. no end. They
talked against the Indian govt. and people
were disgruntled with the govt.

Then the announcement was made in the late evening that the talks were finalized
and the Indian Govt. would release 3 people
in exchange for our lives. We were never aware of what the hijackers initial
demands were. They said that within half and
hour of their men being handed to them they would release us. They made us
believe that we would be released by nightfall.
The hostages waited for those men's arrival.

By night, we were still hopeful that today we would be allowed to go, and we
wouldn't have to spend another cold night on
board, encompassed by the stink that seemed to pervade the whole aircraft. Food
was again served. People wanted to be let
off, and didn't want the food. But the food had to be seen to be believed. In
stark contrast to the blue polythene bags we
used to get daily, this food was packed in Red and Orange boxes. Beautiful, for
people who had been starving for days. The
food was too rich for us to take in.There was one burger, one serving of salad,
apple juice, and an pie for sweet. We were
ready to share one box between the two of us, but the hijacker force us both to
take one box each and eat to our hearts
content. But not having eaten for days on end, it was difficult to eat more than
a few bites. Most of the food lay there
We waited to hear the 'blessed' plane to land. We expected it to arrive at any
time. But when till late night (or what
seemed late.) it didn't arrive, we fell asleep.

Dec 31, 1999

The hijackers had shown us false hopes too many times, that we were still
skeptic of our fate. Some people were outright
relaxed and wanted to freshen up, and be ready(??) for release. We were given,
thanks to the Taliban Govt. one toothpaste
and toothbrush, to share between two people! When we hadn't brushed for 7days,
one more day would do no harm.
Food was again loaded, and we took some to pass time. The hijackers proceeded to
give us long discourses on Islam and the
present situation in Kashmir, where they painted the Indian army as the culprit.

People were getting impatient. They wanted to be let off. Finally they once
again proceeded to rearrange us, for we hoped
the last time. And then instructed the women to cover their heads, before
getting off. They made everyone take back their
luggage, and check that no belongings were stolen. After everyone was satisfied,
they got ready to get off. One of them
got so carried away, that he shouted to us that he loved us all. He seemed to be
giving a stage performance!! Finally they
left the plane, and all the passengers shouted with joy, and congratulated each
other on our good luck to have escaped.

One of the delegates came aboard, and praised our patience. He told us to check
our baggage for any explosives or
ammunitions, and assured us that soon we will head home. He said that the ladder
will soon be brought in, for us to get
off that ill-fated plane.

We got off, the men first, then the women with their head and faces covered, and
finally the crew. Everyone thanked the
crew for the wonderful way in which they had handled the whole situation. The
captain especially had been a pillar strength.
We were welcomed in Afghanistan by questioning eyes, with men in Afghani suits,
and loads of sophisticated guns on them.
We were ferried to the waiting Indian Airlines plane to be welcomed by Jaswant
Singh himself who went and talked to
everyone without exception and assured us that we will be home shortly.

The flight back was short, and the bonhomie on the plane had to be seen to be
believed. This bunch of people who had
feared, cried and laughed together, were to go back to their normal lives once
again. Who in the world said, 'Normal
is boring!'. Ask us!!


Plane hostages recall the terror amid the boredom
The hostages called one hijacker dressed all in black by his nickname, Burger, and within days of commandeering an Indian Airlines jet, he had the 178 passengers and 11 crew members joining in for singing games. He blew hot and cold, depending on his moods
Wednesday, Jan 05, 2000

One of the five hijackers of Indian Airlines Flight 814 last week dressed in black and said his nickname was Burger. A mercurial person, he could be kind at times, ruthless at others, according to interviews with some of the hostages this week in New Delhi.
The adults listened to him recite Urdu poetry. The children called him "Uncle." And a newlywed wife who had a birthday in captivity was grateful when he bought a shawl from a Nepali hostage who dealt in them and presented it to her.
He was the most sympathetic of the five hijackers, and when he walked up and down the aisles holding a gun, he would pause solicitously to chat with passen-gers, who were only allowed to go to the bathroom after asking for permission.
"He was very friendly with everybody," said Ipseeta Menon, 25, who once asked him if he got his nickname because he liked eating hamburgers. (He did not, and the name remains a mystery.)
Cut off as the hostages were, with even the sunlight shut out by the drawn window covers, they thought the masked Burger was a nice guy -- that is until last Thursday morning, when he told them that they would all be killed one by one because the Indian government had refused to meet the hijackers' demands.
As it turned out, this did not happen. The story had a happy ending. Last Friday the hostages were released after India agreed to free three militants who, like the hijackers, were opposed to Indian rule of the Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
But the experience of being trapped on an Airbus jet for eight days has left many of the hostages feeling deeply traumatized.
In interviews, they described days of tedium and moments of terror. They talked of living with the stench of overflowing toilets and of deciding to stop eating solid foods in an effort to avoid the dreaded bathrooms.
And some admit to the strange bond they formed with Burger, the tall, muscular hijacker who was good cop and bad cop all rolled into one.
"He could change from a very sweet person to one who could shoot you within seconds," said Ravi Kollatt, a former merchant marine from Cochin, India. "I could see it in his eyes. They were smiling eyes, but then suddenly they would become small."
The hostages' journey began on Dec. 24. Flight 814 was late, but there was a festive air in Katmandu as they waited to board the plane that would carry them on a hop to New Delhi.
Among them were eight newlywed couples returning from honeymoons in Nepal. Married in arranged matches, they had only begun to get to know each other -- but would soon find themselves tested in a way they had never imagined.
Several passengers said they thought it was a joke when men with guns yelled that they were hijackers. One described a steward pushing a drink cart down the aisle who kept moving when one of the hijackers waved a gun at him. Weren't those pistols and the grenade just fake weapons, like in the movies?
But reality quickly set in.
"When my husband raised his head, they shoved it down roughly," said Suchana Goel, of Bhopal, a newlywed. "We were terrified."
For the first two days the hijackers were jumpy and brusque, hostages said. The plane kept taking off and landing in different places -- the passengers had no idea where.
As they jumped from Amritsar, India, to Lahore, Pakistan, to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and finally, on Dec. 25, to Kandahar, Afghanistan, they were bewildered. Many were blindfolded.
On the harrowing first night, before the plane landed in Dubai, the hijackers picked out a group of strong-looking men and took them into the executive-class compartment, whose occupants had all been moved to economy. Ripen Katyal, 25, a newlywed, was among them.
"Right in front of us they slashed his throat," said K. Keshav Kannan, who was in Nepal on business for his company. "They wanted to make an example."
Only a few knew what had happened. Katyal's new wife, Rachna, sitting in economy, had not heard a thing.
In Dubai, the hijackers released a group of 27 women and children and unloaded Katyal's body. When her husband did not return, Mrs. Katyal got scared.
"Poor thing, she was crying for two days," said Mrs. Menon, herself one of the newlyweds. "They were avoiding her. Then on the third day, Burger said to her, `I am like your elder brother. Your husband has been released in Dubai. You should be happy he is safe and sound.' Rachna never knew he was killed."
Unaware that the hijackers had murdered Katyal, many passengers became chummy with Burger once the plane settled in Kandahar. Though cameras for CNN and BBC were constantly trained on the craft and television stations in India broadcast news of little else, the passengers heard nothing.
One day Burger started a round of joke-telling. He began it with the one about the man in the helicopter who feels cold, asks why the fan is on, stops the propeller and dies. There was weak laughter. Then the captain of the jet picked up the thread and told one, too.
Burger also got them to participate in a singing competition called "antakshri." One passenger would sing part of a song, then the next would have to start a song with the last word in the previous song. There was merriment as young people sang Hindi movie tunes.
Last Wednesday, the sixth day of the incident, the hijackers told the hostages that 35 of them would be exchanged for one militant. Women, children and the elderly were selected for the swap.
One elderly woman refused to leave her grandchildren.
Many of those left behind sobbed, fearing they would be more vulnerable now that many of the weaker people were gone.
But the next morning brought what all the hostages said was the most terrifying moment.
Something had gone badly wrong in the negotiations. The deal had apparently fallen through. And Burger was furious.
People were still asleep, but he wanted to wake them.
First he threw open the doors of the jet and the cold wind swept down the aisles. Then he turned on the lights. Finally he got on the intercom. He told them all to pray to their gods because in half an hour he and his fellow hijackers would begin shooting them. And if anyone so much as moved, he warned, he or she would be killed.
He ordered them all to put their heads down. For hours Mrs. Menon, a dentist, said there was pin-drop silence except for the sound of people weeping. She held onto her husband's hand for comfort.
"At that time, we came to know these people were not to be trusted,'' she said. "We thought the end had really come.''
But that same afternoon, the hostages say, the hijackers came to tell them that they had made a new deal to free all of them.
The next day, New Year's Eve, it was the hijackers who left the plane first. Before climbing down the ladder, Burger turned to the hostages and apologized for what they had done. "We'll meet again,'' he said, waving.
In his final moments with his captives, several of them joked with him.
"If you see us in an airport lounge and you are on a similar mission, will you tip us off so we can stay off the flight?'' one asked. He promised he would. And then he was gone, down a ladder to a waiting car that whisked him away on a vanishing mission.