A commemorative postage stamp on Neerja Bhanot, an Indian model and purser for Pan Am Flight 73, youngest recipient of India’s highest peacetime gallantry, Ashok Chakra [part of the series ‘Ashoka Chakra Winners‘] :
Issued by India
Issued on Oct 8, 2004
Issued for : Department of Posts is proud to issue a set of two commemorative postage stamps in honour of Neerja Bhanot and Randhir Prasad Verma.
Stamp & FDC : Sankha Samanta
Cancellation : Alka Sharma
Type : Se–tenant pair of 2 Stamps, Mint Condition
Colour : Multicolour
Denomination : 500 & 500 Paise
Print Quantity : 0.6 Million Each
Printing Process : Photogravure
Printer : India Security Press, Nashik
Name : Neerja Bhanot
Born on Sep 7, 1963 at Chandigarh, India
Died on Sep 5, 1986 at Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan
- Ashoka Chakra is awarded for the most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent valour of self-sacrifice other than in the face of the enemy. The decoration may be awarded posthumously.
- The medal was originally established in 1952 as the ‘Ashoka Chakra Class I’ as the first step of a three class sequence of non-combatant bravery decorations. In 1967, these decorations were removed from the ‘class-based’ system and renamed as the Ashoka Chakra, Kirti Chakra and Shaurya Chakra. Officers, men on different operations, civilians, airline crew and even Russian Cosmonauts were awarded this medal in due recognition of their gallantry.
- Indeed, Ashoka Chakra awardees live in the hearts of millions. Their acts of bravery bedazzle, leaving an afterglow forever.
- Courage, Commitment and Compassion, these three simple words personify Neerja Bhanot who was recognised internationally as ‘the heroine of the hijack’.
- Neerja Bhanot, daughter of Shri Harish Bhanot was born on 7 September 1963, in Chandigarh. She did her early schooling at Sacred Heart, Chandigarh before going to Mumbai where she studied at Bombay Scottish and St. Xavier’s College. She joined the Pan American World Airways on January 16, 1986. Her leadership qualities were quickly recognised and she was elevated to the position of ‘Purser’ on April 1, 1986. On September 5, 1986, Neerja Bhanot was in the Pan American Airways flight from Bombay to New York via Karachi as Senior Flight Purser, when the plane was hijacked at Karachi Airport by four heavily armed hijackers. Nearly 400 passengers and crew members, were held at gunpoint for over 17 hours.
- Showing exemplary courage, she identified herself to the terrorists as the crew member in charge of the aircraft. She also comforted the passengers, especially the elderly and small children.
- When it became apparent that the hijackers wanted to execute Americans, she hid their passports.
- At the end, the hijackers opened fire and set of explosives. Acting quickly, Neerja opened the emergency doors and helped a number of passengers to escape. While shielding three children from a hail of bullets, she was fatally wounded by the gunfire. She laid down her life displaying the most conspicuous bravery in the face of grave adversity.
- She is the only Indian to have been conferred with the ‘Heroism Award of the Flight Safety Foundation’.
- Text : Based on material given by the proponent.