(PHOTO: Air India Boeing 747 – ‘Kanishka’)
So Air India ‘Kanishka’ & Talwinder Singh who played a major role in its bombing are back in news. Canada,this one will haunt you till time’s end ..
Letting out some thoughts and some facts when it came to Western nations not merely looking away at terrorism aimed at India in the 70s, 80s and the 90s, but in cases, actually encouraging it. This state sponsored terror cost us dearly then & costs us dearly even now.
70s – 90s were not very popular years for Govt of India in Western capitals. At best, they looked away when it came to matters that were detrimental to Indian interests and at worst, they actively fomented trouble within Indian borders. Primary reason was that the geopolitical interests of the US and UK were not aligned with Indian ones.
Germination and nurturing of the Khalistani terrorism was but one manifestation of this ill will. Two quick examples:-
1. After the Khalistani terrorists hijacked an Indian aircraft on 24 Aug 1984 to Lahore (5th such incident, btw), the Pakis found out that the hijacking was done with a toy pistol and in order to help them out, gave them a revolver. Then they asked the hijackers to take the plane to Dubai. Over there, the hijackers demanded that they be handed over to US authorities instead of India. However they were tricked by the Indian and UAE security agencies and brought to India. Upon investigation, it was found that the revolver was of German origin. Germany confirmed that that particular piece was part of a consignment delivered to Pak Army. This was promptly shared with the US. Unsurprisingly, the US refused to believe this due to ‘lack of evidence’, despite eyewitness accounts by the hijacked passengers having seen the revolver handed over in Lahore!
2. In second instance, Talwinder Singh Parmar, a known terrorist was arrested in West Germany in 1983 as he travelled by train from Zurich due to an Interpol lock-out notice. CBI was informed by the Germans thru the Interpol who asked for his custody for trial in cases against him in India. Germany asked for details and was info that a CBI team would be flying to Bonn with the same. However, even before the CBI team took off, the Indian consul general in Vancouver messaged that Talwinder Singh had been released and had even addressed a religious congregation in a local Gurudwara wherein he’d threatened violence against India. Upon being asked as to why they released him, the Germans claimed it was due to delay on Indian part, a patently false statement since the Indian authorities had been prompt in their actions. Talwinder Singh would get back to Canada and play a major part in the Kanishka bombing, an act for which the Canadian Govt’s role is still under a cloud.
Ok, now coming to the shameful ‘Kanishka’ episode.
Talwinder Singh Parmar had been on the run from Indian authorities since 1981 and and had found refuge in Canada. In 1982, India issued a warrant for Parmar’s arrest for six charges of murder stemming from the killing of men of Punjab Police in Ludhiana & notified Canada that he was a wanted terrorist. However, Canada refused to extradite him.
Soon thereafter, BlueStar and subsequent massacre of Sikhs in Delhi followed. The Khalistanis in Canada started plotting revenge.
In late 1984, at least two informers reported to authorities on the first abortive plot to bomb Air India Flight 182, which flew out of Montreal’s Mirabel International Airport at that time. In August 1984, the known criminal Gerry Boudreault claimed that Talwinder Parmar showed him a suitcase stuffed with $200,000, payment to plant a bomb. He refused to do so.
Then in September, in an attempt to get his sentence for theft and fraud reduced, Harmail Singh Grewal of Vancouver told the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) of the plot to bomb the flight from Montreal.
What did the Canadians do? They fcuking DISMISSED these two reports pointing to the SAME plot from two UNRELATED sources as UNRELIABLE.
Finally, in early 1985, the CSIS obtained a court order to place Parmar under surveillance for one year. On 09 June 1985, a police informer in Hamilton reported that Parmar and Bagri had visited the Malton Sikh Gurudwara, warning the faithful that “it would be unsafe” to fly Air India.
The CSIS / RCMP couldn’t have asked for any more red flags pointing towards a plot to bomb an Air India flight out of Canada. But nope, nothing was done.
Ultimately, the Kanishka (pictured above) would get blown apart near Ireland, taking 329 souls with it, at the hands of terrorists based out of Canada, with bombs assembled in Canada. 268 of the victims were Canadian citizens.
What followed was an investigation that still continues to this day in some respects, uncovering utter incompetence on part of Canadian authorities at best, and wilful / malicious oversight at worst.
Much has been written about that, so I’ll cover only some basic, glaring lacunae.
As has been mentioned earlier, Parmar was under surveillance since early 1985. Late in the afternoon of June 4, 1985, CSIS surveillance teams followed Parmar’s maroon car as he drove to pick up his friend Inderjit Singh Reyat from his home in Duncan. From Reyat’s home, three men, one of whom has never been identified, drove to a clearing in the woods around the town. CSIS agents Larry Lowe &Lynne Jarrett soon heard a loud blast.
It was the terrorists testing the detonation system for the bombs. The agents reported it as a shotgun blast.
Then happened the most incredible thing in this entire dirty saga .. On 16 Jun 1985, surveillance over Parmar was lifted!
This was the time when preparations for the bombing would’ve been at their peak!
Esp since this blast was NOT the only sign of trouble.
But it gets even more ‘funnier’.
Apparently, James Bartleman, then Director General of the Intelligence & Security Bureau of the CSIS External Affairs Division, told the Air India Commission that he had seen secret info which “indicated that Flight 182 would be targeted.”
Now intelligence cannot get any more pointed than this. But when he brought this same info to the notice of an RCMP official, Bartleman testified that ‘he was met with a hostile reception’.
Mind you, he was a DG in the CSIS!
And then we are to believe it was mere inter agency turf wars at play!
Sorry, I refuse to believe that. Just as I suspect, the 329 departed souls would refuse too.
What is even more glaring is that based on Indian agencies’ inputs, on 01 Jun 1985 Air India’s Mumbai office sent a telex message to the airline’s offices worldwide warning of “the likelihood of sabotage attempts being undertaken by Sikh extremists by placing time/delay devices, etc., in the aircraft or registered baggage.”
Air India’s Montréal office passed on the information to the RCMP.
A good, professional agency would have reconciled it with inputs it already had, and upped its vigil. But then it was the RCMP. They chose to not only NOT forward the input to CSIS, but not even to THEIR OWN internal dept responsible for preparing threat assessments.
The RCMP were already aware of possible plots to target Air India aircraft, yet they dismissed even this input from Air India itself as a ‘ploy’ by the national carrier of a third world, commie aligned nation (remember, Afghan ‘Jihad’ was then underway) to secure additional security FOR FREE!
To be charitable, I’ll say the RCMP were not an intentional party to this terror attack, but merely, as Justice John Major of Canadian Supreme Court said, “Time and again in the Air India investigation, RCMP came down on the side of skepticism based on a superficial assessment of credibility, which led them to dismiss info long before its truth could reasonably be assessed”.
But this ‘incompetence’ carried on even after the attack actually happened.
Once again, not going into the nitty gritties of the trial as such. Just listing out a couple of facts over here.
In his verdict, Justice Josephson cited “unacceptable negligence” by CSIS when hundreds of wiretaps of the suspects were destroyed. Of the 210 wiretaps that were recorded during the months before and after the bombing, 156 were erased. Amazingly, nay, ‘Funnily’, these tapes continued to be erased even after the terrorists had become the primary suspects in the bombing! Because the original wiretap records were erased, they were inadmissible as evidence in court. In a lame excuse,CSIS claimed the wiretap recordings contained no relevant information, but an RCMP memo states that “There is a strong likelihood that had CSIS retained the tapes between March and August 1985, that a successful prosecution of at least some of principals in both bombings could have been undertaken.”
Then there was the case of Tara Singh Hayer, the publisher of the Indo-Canadian Times & a member of the Order of British Columbia who gave an affidavit to the RCMP in 1995 that he was present during a conversation in which Bagri admitted his involvement in the bombings. Hayer was, however, shot dead in 1998 in Surrey, consequent to which his affidavit was inadmissible as evidence in court.
Ok, so this was in England – another ‘stronghold’ of Khalistanis. But in Canada itself, many refused to testify since the Canadian Govt couldn’t provide sufficient guarantees of their safety, of two witnesses, one cited memory loss in refusing to testify, and another was forced to enter the Witness Protection Program two years earlier than planned, due to the RCMP’s ‘inadvertent‘ disclosure of her identity.
So professional of them, no?
But the ‘funny’ doesn’t end here. Justice John Major noted in amazement as to how could the RCMP not share the telex from Air India with the CSIS.
On the contrary, RCMP provided erroneous information to former Ontario Premier Bob Rae during his 2005 investigation.
The RCMP didn’t lie or hide facts. They merely provided ‘erroneous’ information!
This was not the only part of the aviation security lapses by the Canadian law enforcement agencies, Justice Major stated. He referred to one summer employee, Brian Simpson, who ‘boarded Flight 182 at Pearson International Airport in Toronto without detection on the afternoon of June 22, 1985’ and this person ‘had complete access to the aircraft from the cockpit to the equipment at the rear.’
The saddest part to Major was that during testimonies the ‘government counsel’ tried ‘to discredit this witness.’ Simpson’s evidence, he said, ‘revealed numerous weaknesses in security.’ I think I’ve said enough. Time to stop now, since my blood is still boiling at this wilful murder.
Yes, that’s how I look at it – Wilful.
Wilful, because it could have easily been prevented.
Wilful, because the perps could easily have been convicted.
Wilful, because petty egos, masquerading as ‘turf wars’ caused the loss of 329 souls.
At the most charitable, I’ll say it was an ‘innocent oversight’ that nurtured, and continues to nurture anti India terrorists over Canadian soil.
At the opposite end, someone can just as easily call out Canada for willfully nurturing them for their own reasons. How else can a visa denial to an ex CRPF officer over assumed human rights abuses be justified? (LINK)
Btw, the Canadian Govt was forced to apologize for this act by an employee of theirs. Fair enough, but it does show the mindset nurtured over decades, just coming to the foreground – Selective Amnesia, I’d say.
And it is only getting more and more mainstream each passing day.
I’ll sign off on this blog post with what I said in my first paragraph – Canada, this will haunt you till time’s end.
- Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_India_Flight_182
- The Hindu: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/Kanishka-investigation-unfinished-business/article16261884.ece
EDIT (DATED 24 June 2022): Adding this short video here. The name of Pierre Trudeau, father of Justin Trudeau too figures in it