Despite an inquiry report indicting the Canadian government on Thursday for the 1985 Air India Kanishka bombing and recommending ex-gratia compensation for them, families of the victims were unhappy that the killers will never be brought to justice.
Blamed on pro-Khalistan militants who wanted to avenge the Indian Army action at the Golden Temple in Punjab to flush out militants in 1984, the bombing of the Montreal-Delhi flight mid-air near Ireland killed all 329 passengers, mostly Indo-Canadians, on board.
Toronto-based Bal Gupta, who set up the Air India Victims' Families Association soon after losing his wife in the bombing June 23, 1985, looked relieved after meeting Prime Minister Stephen for 45 minutes Thursday after inquiry panel head John Major released his report.
"Today's report only closes a chapter in our lives. There will never be any closure to our tragedy. How can there be a closure for eight couples who lost all their children in the bombing? These old couples are now living in twilight without their lights," Gupta told IANS.
"Though the inquiry commission has addressed all the mistakes we always believed led to the tragedy, the sore point is that the guilty will never be brought to justice," he said.
A former hydro engineer who moved to Canada in 1968, Gupta said, "Today is a bitter-sweet day. Sweet in the sense that the report confirms our suspicions. Bitter in the sense that 20 years is a little too late."
Mississauga-based Lata Pada, the most famous Indian artist in Canada who lost her husband and two daughters in the bombing, told IANS, "Though the report does some justice to us, the sad part is that there will never be conviction of the killers."
She said, "There will never be closure to their tragedy. But the report has at last acknowledged that it was a Canadian tragedy, that the Canadian system failed us."
Pada, who along with Bal Gupta and other victim families met the prime minister, said, "He (PM) assured us of follow-up action on the report. We are thankful to him and Justice John Major who conducted the inquiry."
Former Canadian health minister Ujjal Dosanjh, who briefly met some of the victim families, said, "The fact that today's report is extremely scathing of successive Canadian governments for not acknowledging failures, has vindicated the victim families. At last, there is some comfort for them that the report has validated what they believed - that some Canadians conspired to kill fellow Canadians."
Only one person -Inderjit Singh Reyat - was convicted in the bombing, while two suspects - Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik - were acquitted in 2005.
Plot mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar, who fled to India, was killed in a police gun battle in Punjab in 1992.
(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)