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December 24, 1999
Tense relatives await news of Flight 814
Onkar Singh and Josy Joseph in New Delhi
There was chaos in the arrival lounge at the Indira Gandhi international airport on Friday evening when word spread that Flight IC 814 had been hijacked by five heavily-armed terrorists.
Relatives of the passengers alleged that the authorities deliberately kept them in the dark and refused to give information about the flight's fate though the BBC and Star News confirmed news about the hijacking much earlier.
Uma Kant Pandey, senior manager, Indian Airlines, who tried to provide information to the relatives, was constantly abused and heckled when he spoke.
S C Jain, a retired government servant, arrived at the airport to receive his relatives around 1415. As IC 813 from New Delhi left for Kathmandu two hours behind schedule, Jain was forced to stay on. "Till 1630 there was no word about the fate of the plane. In fact, as late as 1740 Indian Airlines officials maintained that the plane was delayed. Even the announcement board showed this position till 1830 when the correction was made," Jain pointed out.
Relatives of Rajinder Singh and Sukhvinder Kaur, who got married on December 12 and had honeymooned in Kathmandu with another young couple Arvind and Vaishali Grover, alleged that the IA authorities had failed in giving updated information about the hijacked aircraft.
The relatives heaved a sigh of temporary relief when IA Commercial Manager K Agarwal announced that the plane had landed in Amritsar and no refueling was being allowed. But the mood quickly turned to agony when the relatives learnt that the plane had taken off for Lahore.
At 2015, the relatives were told the plane had landed at Lahore and the hijackers were demanding refuelling of the aircraft.
P Sharma had come to receive R K Sharma, the Kathmandu-based manager of his company. R K Sharma was coming to Delhi along with his wife and children to attend the funeral of his younger brother Dulichand.
The Delhi airport was cordoned off by the police and senior police officials rushed to the airport to review security arrangements.
Additional reportage: Tara Shankar Sahay
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