Air India is in headlines these days. The reason for this is- homecoming after 68 years. Nearly 7 decades after the nationalization of Air India in 1953, this company is again going into the hands of the one who laid its foundation in 1932 i.e. Tata Group. Air India was once the ruler of Indian Aviation. In the 50-60s, when all the giants of Asia, including China, did not have modern long-range aircraft, then Air India had the best aircraft of that time. In 1955, Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai was to attend the Non-Aligned Movement’s conference in Bandung, Indonesia, but China did not have an aircraft capable of covering such a long distance. Then he chose Air India’s plane for the chartered flight. However, a very bad memory was attached to it as a plane bomb exploded over South China Xi, killing 16 people.
The plane took off without a Chinese PM
April 11, 1955 was the fateful day when an Air India plane was the victim of a bomb blast for the first time. The target was the then Prime Minister of China, Zhou Enlai, but a medical emergency turned out to be a boon for him and he survived. Actually, according to the pre-decided schedule, the Chinese Prime Minister was to fly from Hong Kong to Jakarta on 11 April 1955. Air India’s chartered plane ‘Kashmir Princess’ was to fly. It was a Lockheed-L-749A constellation aircraft. ‘Kashmir Princess’ took off from Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport. Incidentally, it was not Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai. It was told that he did not board it due to medical emergency. There were 14 passengers on the plane, mostly journalists from Xinhua and Eastern Europe. Apart from this, there were 5 crew and cabin members.
There was a huge explosion about 5 hours after takeoff
About 5 hours after the flight, there was a loud explosion in the plane over the South China Sea, in which pilot D.K. 16 people died, including Jatar Stewardes Gloria Eva Berry. But 3 people survived which was nothing less than a miracle. The three lucky ones were co-pilot MC Dixit, ground maintenance engineer Anant Karnik and navigator J. C. Reader. The trio swam in the South China Sea for 12 hours until fishermen rescued them. He was later taken to Singapore safely by a British warship. Later the five crew-cabin members – D.K. Jatar, Gloria Eva Berry, MC Dixit, Anant Karnik and J. C. Pathak was awarded the Ashoka Chakra, the highest peacetime gallantry award in India. He was the first civilian to be awarded the Ashoka Chakra.
There was a conspiracy to kill the PM of China, the secret agent of KTM had placed a time bomb!
The investigation revealed that the ‘Kashmir Princess’ was detonated by a time bomb which was fitted in the wheel bay of the aircraft. It is believed that the Guomindang (Chinese Nationalist Party) was behind this blast and the motive was to assassinate Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai. The man who allegedly fitted the time bomb on the plane was an air port employee, Chou Chu, a Guomindang secret agent. There was a full proof plan to kill the Chinese prime minister but due to medical emergency, he did not board the plane.
‘Medical emergency’ saved the life of Chinese PM Zhou Enlai!
The reason Zhou Enlai did not board the plane was told that he had to undergo an appendix operation in an emergency. However, it is also said that the Chinese Prime Minister was already aware of the danger and that is why he did not board the Kashmir Princess at the last moment. China then also suspected the US intelligence agency CIA for the blast, which was rejected by Washington. However, in April 2004, China declassified secret diplomatic files from 1949 to 1955, which described the blast as a Guomindang conspiracy.