Kolkata: Amid the prevailing tension in the wake of the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar in 1999, Mamata Banerjee, a Union Cabinet Minister then, had offered herself as a hostage in exchange for the passengers of the flight, former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha said on Saturday. Recalling his days with her as a colleague, the former senior BJP leader said the Trinamool chief has been a “fighter” right from the beginning. He joined her party today in Kolkata, having quit the BJP in 2018.
“I have worked with her (Mamata Banerjee) under Prime Minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee. I can tell you she has been a fighter from early on and she is still a fighter,” he said today.
“I want to tell you today that when the Indian Airlines plane was hijacked to Kandahar, there was a discussion happening in the Cabinet. Mamatji offered to go herself as a hostage on the condition that the Indians are released in exchange. She was ready to make that sacrifice,” he said.
Before joining the Trinamool today in the presence of senior leaders Derek O’Brien, Sudip Bandopadhyay, and Subrata Mukherjee at the party headquarters in Kolkata, he met Banerjee at her residence in the Kalighat locality.
Banerjee was Railway Minister to PM Vajpayee when the Kandahar hijacking took place. IC 814, an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, bound for Delhi, was flown to Kandahar with stops in between, including one in Amritsar. The government was criticised back then for handing over captured terrorists in return for the hostages whom the hijackers had threatened to kill.
The crisis ended only when India release three terrorists – Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and Masood Azhar. Sheikh and Azhar went on to carry out further acts of terror like the journalist Danel Pearl’s murder and the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.