DW BUREAU / Chandigarh
President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday praised city braveheart flight purser Neerja Bhanot, saying the country was proud of her.
“There is a long list of women achievers from Chandigarh. But if I have to take one name I will mention Neerja Bhanot,” said Kovind in his address at the MCM DAV College for Women in Chandigarh at its Golden Jubilee celebrations.
“In 1986, she foiled the plans of terrorists with her bravery and saved 359 air passengers. Not just Chandigarh, but the entire nation is proud of her, who laid down her life for the safety of others,” said Kovind.
She gave up her life, two days before she would have turned 23, to save travellers during a terrorist-hijack of a Pan-Am flight at Karachi International Airport in Pakistan on September 5, 1986.
Neerja, who was the senior flight purser of Pan-Am 73 (Bombay-Karachi-Frankfurt-New York) flight, was killed in the shootout following the hijack. Palestinian terrorists from the Abu Nidal terrorist group had entered the aircraft posing as Pakistani Police personnel, carrying arms and hand grenades.
The hijack had left 20 people dead and 150 injured after a bloodbath at Karachi airport.
Praising the architectural planning of the city, Kovind said: “Chandigarh is the first planned city of India. It is an example of ‘Harit Bharat’, ‘Swachh Bharat’ and ‘Swasth Bharat’. The citizens have contributed a lot to its present form.”
On women empowerment, the President said, “In the male-dominated society, women have to face a lot of obstacles.”
“But how can they come out of it? In my understanding, if parents and families allow freedom to think freely and allow them to gain experience in new fields, it would enhance their confidence.”
“Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi alone flew the fighter jet last year. Haryana’s Phogat sisters have also shown that no field is taboo for the daughters. If parents of P.V. Sindhu, Sania Mirza, Sania Nehwal, and Aruna Reddy had not granted them freedom, exposure, and encouragement, how would they achieve success,” he said.
“Women have to attend to family duties. But these responsibilities shouldn’t become obstacles in their lives. Manipur’s Mary Kom continued to play and win despite entering into a married life. She is a source of inspiration for Indian women.”
In his address, he also talked about the Rock Garden, a fantasy garden that was developed by the art of creating figures from waste material discarded by people.