Literally running from pillar to post in both India and the US for the past several years, the Indian and Indian-American relatives of the victims of the 1986 terror attack on Pan Am Flight 73 now are pinning their last hopes on US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resolve the issue of compensation.
The attack killed 20 passengers, including two Americans and 13 Indians, and injured more than 120. The relatives of the Indian and Indian-American victims have sought appointment with Obama when he travels to New Delhi later this month to attend the Republic Day Parade as chief guest.
The US, whom these families accuse of discriminating against Indian and Indian-American victims when it comes to paying compensation to the kin, has pleaded its inability to do so, arguing that it is bound by rule of the land and international strictures in the matter of compensation for victims who were not American nationals at the time of the attack. But in a fresh move, it says it is willing to work with the Indian government to address their grievances on the matter.
“There is a history on this that can be looked at and then we (India and the US) can have discussions and consultations on what the options are for moving forward and what the legal requirements are on both sides. This is something that we would be prepared to sit down and discuss,” US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal has said.
In the past several weeks, the families have renewed their efforts in both Washington and New Delhi, pushing the two governments to get them the compensation that is due and end the discrimination. “We are a group of victims of Pan Am 73, an American flagship carrier, which was hijacked at Karachi airport. We have been discriminated against and abandoned by the USA pursuant to the US-Libya Agreement of 2008. We would like to meet President Obama when he visits India in January to present our case,” Aneesh Bhanot, representing Indian victims of the flight, said in a recent email to the US embassy in New Delhi.
Bhanot is brother of flight attendant Neerja Bhanot, who died saving passengers during the hijack. On September 5, 1986, four Palestinian militants had hijacked the jet with 360 passengers on board while it was on the ground at Karachi in Pakistan. “We hope this matter is raised during Obama’s trip to India,” Prabhat Krishnaswamy, representing the Indian-American families from Pan Am Flight 73, said.