In this new series of articles, we will be bringing to light the untold stories of Badass womxn around the world, both past and present, our first Womxn will be
Neerja Bhanot was born in Punjab, India in 1963 and was raised in Punjab and Mumbai. She graduated from St. Xavier’s college, Mumbai and later got scouted to be a model and later on applied to become a flight attendant with Pan Am airlines but after returning from training she became a purser.
In 1986, at 22 years old, she and her colleagues fended off a group of armed hijackers on Pan Am flight 73 (which had 365 passengers and 13 crew members), the flight was going from Mumbai to the United States. When the hijackers boarded the plane, she was able to secretly alert the pilots and they were able to escape, the hijackers demanded Bhanot to give them all the passports of all the passengers so they could kill the passengers who were from the United states. Instead, she had the idea of hiding the passports of the 43 Americans on board, with the help of the other attendants, they hid them under seats and the rest down a rubbish chute.
After 17 hours, the hijackers started to open fire and set off explosives. Bhanot opened one of the airplanes emergency exit doors and started to help the passengers escape. She was shot point blank in the head while shielding 3 American children from a hail of gunfire from the terrorist and died.
In total only 2 of the 44 Americans on board died. She is recognized internationally as the “heroine of the hijack” and became the youngest to receive the Ashok Chakra Award. Her heroism inspired the biopic ‘ Neerja’, its available on Netflix.