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The Air India investigation

It was deemed the worst act of terrorism in Canadian history: 331 people were killed in two decisive and deliberate explosions — one in a Japanese airport, another aboard Air India flight 182 in 1985. For the families of the victims, most of them Canadian, this was just the beginning. Charges of investigative bungling would be followed by the more startling accusations that CSIS, Canada's security agency, intentionally initiated a coverup. For over 20 years Canadians have grappled with this unsolved crime for which no one has yet had to pay.

One year after the Air India crash, the case proves difficult to crack. Investigators have pieced together a timeline, as dramatized in this CBC Radio special. Rumours abound and members of the B.C. Sikh community are placed under constant surveillance. The RCMP arrested Sikh militants Talwinder Singh Parmar and Inderjit Singh Reyat on conspiracy and weapons charges but no link has been established yet with the Air India case.

 

• Tension between the Sikhs and Hindus in India reached its zenith in 1984. Radical Sikhs, led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, rallied for an independent Sikh state to be named Khalistan, separate from India. This group of militant Sikhs used the Golden Temple in Amritsar as its base. In June 1984, Indian troops sought to crush the movement and occupied and demolished the temple. In the ensuing bloody battle, 1200 were killed.

• The violence continued on Oct. 31, 1984, when Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her bodyguards, who were Sikh. A violent battle consequently erupted across India between the Sikhs and the Hindus.

• Strict police enforcement and sweeping arrests led to relative stability in India by 1990.

• In March 1984 the Indian government appealed for the extradition of Talwinder Singh Parmar from Canada. The request was refused on the technicality that Canada could not extradite fugitives to a country which didn't recognize the Queen as its head of state.

• On March 5, 1985, CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) was granted a one-year wiretap warrant for the surveillance of Talwinder Singh Parmar. The Indian government had deemed Parmar an extremely dangerous militant and had sought and failed to extradite him back to India. On July 15, 1984, Parmar was observed at the Coach Temple encouraging the congregation to avenge the attack on the Golden Temple.

• On June 4, 1985, CSIS trailed Parmar and Inderjit Singh Reyat to Vancouver Island where they were observed congregating in the woods. CSIS agents heard a loud explosion and believed the pair were testing a gun.

• On Nov. 6, 1985, the RCMP conducted a raid on the homes of suspected Sikh radicals Talwinder Singh Parmar, Inderjit Singh Reyat, Surjan Singh Gill, Hardial Singh Johal and Manmohan Singh. Following the sweep, Parmar and Reyat were arrested on weapons, explosives and conspiracy offences. The charges against Parmar were dropped due to lack of evidence. Reyat paid a fine for the weapons' offences but investigators initially failed to link him to the Air India bombing. Reyat then moved to Coventry, England.

• Sikhism was founded more than 500 years ago. The religion advocates devotion to God and preaches equality and honest living. It also condemns superstition.

Medium: Radio Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: June 22, 1986
Guest(s): Salim Jiwa, Paul Koring
Host: Barbara Budd
Duration: 18:39

Last updated: January 24, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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