Tense ties between India and Canada have been further strained by recent media coverage of the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182. All 329 passengers and crew members were killed in the blast, which is often known as the “Kanishka bombing” after the doomed Boeing 747 named after Emperor Kanishka. Both countries will never forget the incident, which was carried out by Sikh separatists seeking revenge for the Indian army’s 1984 assault on the Golden Temple in Punjab. The inquiry that followed the tragedy and its effects on the families of those killed in India and Canada are all explored in this article.
The Tragic Events of 1985
Air India Flight 182, bound for India from Canada via London, crashed off the coast of Ireland on June 23, 1985. All passengers were killed when a bomb hidden in a luggage that had been checked into the aircraft without the owner’s knowledge exploded. A total of 268 Canadians, the vast majority of whom were of Indian descent, and 24 people of actual Indian nationality perished. The fact that just 131 bodies were pulled from the water is a grim reality. Two Japanese luggage handlers were killed in an explosion at Tokyo’s Narita Airport at the same time. The second device, which was also related to the attack on airplane 182, was discovered to have exploded prematurely on an Air India airplane en route to Bangkok.
Unraveling the Perpetrators Air India Flight 182
The Canadian government has determined that Sikh separatists were responsible for the deadly attack. These radicals planned the bombs to avenge the 1984 Indian army assault on the Golden Temple. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested Talwinder Singh Parmar, the leader of the outlawed extremist organization Babbar Khalsa, and Inderjit Singh Reyat, an electrician, on several counts of possession of firearms, possession of explosives, and conspiracy. But there were several holes in the prosecution’s case against Parmar, so he was let go. Parmar was subsequently slain by Indian police in 1992, and investigations found that he had planned the attack.
Rich Vancouver businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik and British Columbia mill worker Ajaib Singh Bagri were charged with many counts of murder and conspiracy in the year 2000. Their nearly two-year trial resulted in acquittal due to the judge’s concerns about the trustworthiness of key witnesses and factual inaccuracies. Many of the victims’ loved ones wept openly in the courtroom after hearing the decision. The only person found guilty of involvement in the incident, Reyat, was sentenced to ten years in prison in the United Kingdom. He received an extra five years in jail after pleading guilty to manslaughter in a Canadian court in 2003 for his role in the Flight 182 bombing. He was subsequently convicted of perjury at the trial of Malik and Bagri and sentenced to further time behind bars.
Controversies Surrounding the Investigation Air India Flight 182
There were allegations that Canadian officials failed to take necessary precautionary precautions and mishandled the investigation into the Air India bombing. The public investigation that followed in 2006 revealed a chain of failures that led to the biggest mass killing in Canadian history. Months before the actual incident, an anonymous witness had informed Canadian authorities of a plan to destroy a passenger jet. Canadian intelligence officers had also heard a large explosion while watching Parmar and Reyat in the forests on Vancouver Island. Unfortunately, nobody paid much attention to this at the time.
In the 1990s, two Sikh journalists were murdered in London and Toronto; both men may have been crucial evidence for the prosecution. Furthermore, a former Canadian secret service officer admitted he had destroyed vital cassettes comprising 150 hours of telephone calls made by Sikh suspects because to concerns that their identities would be revealed if they were kept in storage.
Apology and Aftermath Air India Flight 182
The Canadian government had ignored the victims’ relatives for far too long, and in 2010, Prime Minister Stephen Harper publicly apologized to them. Both Reyat’s 2016 release from a Canadian jail after completing 66 months of a 9-year sentence and his subsequent relocation were met with criticism. Police in Surrey, British Columbia, concluded that Ripudaman Singh Malik’s murder the next year was premeditated.
Conclusion: Lingering Wounds
Both India and Canada will remember the Air India bombs of 1985 forever. Although most of the casualties were Canadian, the tragedy has affected people on both sides of the border due to the strong Indian heritage of many of the victims’ families. Amid tense international ties, this tragedy has recently resurfaced, serving as a sobering reminder that justice for the victims has yet to be achieved. While issues about the flaws of the inquiry remain, families in India continue to struggle with sentiments of isolation and neglect from the legal process. As the 38th anniversary of the Air India bombing approaches, it is clear that despite its profound influence on Canadian culture, this tragic tragedy is still largely unknown outside of a small circle of experts.