The Story Of Nepal’s First Airplane Hijacking: How Girija Prasad Koirala Hijacked An Airplane To Fund An Armed Rebellion Against King Mahendra
The Nepal Congress party is a foundational pillar of Nepal’s political system. It’s been around since the days before Nepali democracy, and the party’s first members played a big role in fighting for democratic freedoms.
So, it might be hard to digest the fact that this very party once hijacked an airplane in its early days. Not just that, but Girija Prasad Koirala, one of the most respected politicians of modern Nepal, was the mastermind behind the hijacking.
The story is one from 1973. Nepal was under the ruthless Panchayat rule during that time. It was a system of government introduced by King Mahendra, the father of King Birendra. The King had absolute power in this system, and protests of any kind were illegal.
During this time, there were many civilian groups rebelling against the Panchayat system. They used to secretly campaign and protest against the system, and conduct awareness campaigns. Sometimes, they even took up weapons.
The Nepali Congress in those days was no different. The mastermind behind this attack, Girija Prasad Koirala, has mentioned this incident in his own autobiography, although he refused to go into details. According to him, the motive behind the hijacking was to gather funds for an armed revolution against the Panchayat.
An ally, Madan Aryal, had given the party a tip from his job at the Nepal Rastra Bank. An RNAC passenger plane would be flying from Kathmandu to Biratnagar on June 10, 1973, with 3 million Indian Rupees belonging to the Rastra Bank.
Armed with two pistols and one grenade, a three-man team composed of Basanta Bhattarai, Durga Subedi, and Nagendra Prasad Dhungel boarded the team and held the 14 passengers hostage. Interestingly, one of the passengers was Bollywood actress Mala Sinha, who acted in the historic Nepali film Maitighar.
The pilots were forced to land in a grassy meadow at Forbesganj, Bihar. The airplane was received by none other than Sushil Koirala — a Congress figure who would later become Prime Minister. After a successful hijacking, the team absconded with the 3 million IC to Darjeeling.
While the daring mission went without a hitch, almost all the freedom fighters involved in the actual hijacking were arrested in India within a year. In later years, Girija Prasad himself spoke out about his suspicions that the money was misused.
The airplane continued to take flights for years until a crash in 2015 put it permanently out of commission. The aircraft involved with the first hijacking in Nepali history currently sits at the BP Museum in Sundarijal, preserved as a remnant of a strange chapter in Nepali political history.
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