Panjab University’s new hostel number 10 to be named after Neerja Bhanot

Chandigarh, August 18: The new girls’ hostel on the Panjab University campus will be named after Neerja Bhanot, the purser who lost her life trying to save passengers on the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 in 1986.

PU vice-chancellor Professor Arun Kumar Grover has made the recommendation for naming the hostel number 10, which is likely to open by mid-September. Prof Grover’s recommendations will be tabled in the syndicate meeting scheduled on August 20. “Neerja Bhanot is a role model for young women for her courage and devotion to duty,” said the V-C.

Other girls’ hostels on the campus are also named after female leaders who have contributed immensely in their fields: Sarojni Naidu, Kasturba Gandhi, Savitribai Phule, Bebe Nanaki, Mata Gujri, Laxmi Bail, Amrita Pritam and Florence Nightingale.

Against the average capacity of 350 in other hostels, the new hostel coming up on the rear of hostel number 9, will accommodate more students, said sources. The existing hostels have around 200 rooms each, which include single and double occupancy and dormitories.

Born in Chandigarh in 1963, Neerja was staying with her family in Mumbai at the time of hijack. Also a model, she worked as purser with the Pan American World Airways based in Mumbai. After the flight was hijacked during a stopover in Karachi, Pakistan, on September 5, 1986, she was shot dead while helping passengers escape through the emergency exits.

Neerja was awarded with India’s highest peacetime gallantry award for bravery, Ashoka Chakra, in 1987.

Her life and heroism inspired a biopic, Neerja, released in 2016, and won the national award for best Hindi film in April this year. Now, PU is also set to give a tribute to her heroism. “It’s a great initiative,” said Neerja’s brother Aneesh Bhanot. “If it becomes true, Neerja’s name will be remembered along with other famous women reformers after whom girls’ hostels have been named at PU.” Punjab Kala Bhavan already has an art gallery dedicated to Neerja, said Bhanot.