Molvi Rafiq Ahmad Shopiani, a close associate of Abdul Hameed Diwani, passed away in Lahore on September 17.
He died at the age of 64. His friend and acquaints in Kashmir called him ‘a born freedom fighter.
He included among five associates of Syed Abdul Hameed Diwani (Bandipora) who hijacked Indian airlines plane Boeing 737 from Delhi’s Palam airport on September 10, 1976 to highlight the Kashmir case before the international community.
There were 83 passengers including then Punjab chief minister Gyani Zail Singh on board.
The others in the hijackers’ group included M Ahsan Rathore, Abdul Rashid Malik, Ghulam Rasool and Khawaja Ghulam Nabi Itoo.
Diwani passed away in 1993 in Pakistan.
The hijackers first said that the plane was hijacked in protest against Indira-Abdullah Accord of 1975, which saw return of Shaikh Abdullah to Indian political mainstream. They also demanded the release of Maqbool Bhat who was caught by police the same year with help of local residents while robbing the local branch of Jammu and Kashmir Bank at Langate.
They took the plane to Lahore for refueling, though Pakistan was not their final destination. They took the permission from CAA Lahore airport in Pakistan to land and refuel.
The reports the said that hijackers planned to travel as many countries without harming any passenger on board to ‘loud their voice of freedom for Kashmir’.
This was second Indian plane that Kashmiri “freedom fighters’ hijacked. Earlier in 1970, two Kashmiri men Hashim Quarishi and Ashraf Quraishi hijacked an Indian plane to Lahore. The plane was put to flames giving India an excuse to stop overflights of West Pakistan to then East Pakistan in its territory. With e rebellion in East Pakistan, this led to breaking of Pakistan and its eastern part emerging as Bangladesh.
Pakistan did not want to fall in the trap again. They instead played a trick on the hijackers. They served the hijackers colourless tranquilizer with water turning them unconscious . All the six hijackers were taken in custody and Aeroplane was sent back to India with 83 passengers on board including CM of Punjab.
They were released after spending two to three years in jail.
According to his relatives, Molivi Rafiq settled in Lahore. He got a government job but resigned later to start his own business. His death has been condoled widely by separatist sections on both sides of the line of control calling him a ‘great son of the soil’ and ‘a born freedom fighter’.
(Image–Kandhar hijacked plane)