Many might have forgotten the Gujarat Beechcraft incident that took place in 1965 which killed the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Balwantrai Mehta. The incident happened during the Indo-Pak war of 1965. BalwantRai Mehta along with his wife, three members of his staff, a journalist and two members were killed in the fatal event.
Balwant Rai Mehta was the second Chief Minister of Gujarat and also participated in the Indian Independence movement. When Jawaharlal Nehru became the President of All India Congress Committee, he was elected its general secretary. Mehta is also considered as the ‘Architect of Panchayat Raj.’
It is said that he was the only sitting Chief Minister who was killed by an enemy country.
The netizens remembered the fatal incident after the Indian Government sought permission from the Pakistani authorities to allow PM Modi to fly over the Pakistani airspace.
The Gujarat Beechcraft incident
On September 19, 1965, during the Indo-Pak war, Balwantrai Mehta took the Beechcraft model 18 twin-engine light aircraft to Mithapur which is situated near the Indo-Pak border. Air force Pilot Jahangir Engineer was piloting the aircraft.
Balwantrai Mehta along with his wife Saroj, a journalist of Gujarat Samachar and three close aides of Mehta were in the flight. It was supposed to land in Mithapur around 3pm.
At the same time, Pakistan flight Lt A Bukhari and flying official Qais Hussain were alerted by Pakistani radar controllers that an Indian aircraft had drifted off course near the Pakistani border.
Hussain then entered into the Indian Airspace at 20,000 ft. It descended to 3,000 ft at which the Indian chopper was flying.
Qais Hussain was waiting for permission from Pakistan ground control and began hovering around the aircraft.
Indian aircraft pilot began waggling its wings to indicate that it was a civilian aircraft. But, upon receiving the order Hussain fired at the aircrat which hit the Indian aircraft and it exploded in the air before falling on the ground. Four days later, Pakistani dictator Ayub Khan declared ceasefire.
Nearly half a century later, the Pakistani Pilot Qais Hussain wrote letter to the daughter of the Beechcraft’s chief pilot Jahangir Engineer.
In the letter, Hussain expressed regret that he had been responsible for the death of pilot Jahangir Engineer. He also said that he did not play foul and went by the rules of the business.
Jahangir’s daughter Farida Singh, appreciated the gesture and thought it was noble. She replied to him saying it took courage for him to write the letter and also it takes the same to write back too.
But, the letter was only addressed to Jahangir’s daughter and there was no mention of the Chief Minister, his wife or any other victims.
Although this move by Qais Hussain was appreciated by all, Indians will never seem to forget this ghastly incident which killed 7 people which included one of the great leaders of Congress Balwantrai Mehta. Even though the Pakistani pilot obeyed the official instructions, it does not mitigate the tragedy that took place on this day 56 years ago.