'Sikh extremism in Canada rose fast'

Updated on May 23, 2007 03:05 PM IST
A former Intelligence agent reveals that despite the violence in Punjab in 1984, it did not anticipate extremism in Canada.
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PTI | By, Toronto

Sikh extremism in Canada mushroomed far more quickly than Canadian security officials were prepared for, a former intelligence agent told the commission of inquiry into the 1985 Air India bombing.

"My personal feeling is no one saw the Sikh issue rising so quickly in prominence and I think that was a result of the raid on the Sikh Golden Temple," said Bob Burgoyne, who worked in the Sikh desk for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

"This was all new to us," he told the inquiry, which has been assigned the task of investigating the incidents prior to and after the June 23, 1985 bombing that killed 329 people.

Burgoyne said he and another agent were scrambling to understand the level of threat from what began as a bunch of malcontents in the Vancouver area and grew into a full-blown hotbed of Sikh extremists, who among other things, were threatening to kill thousand of Hindus by a number of means, including blowing up Air India flights.

"Maybe it was our lack of understanding of Sikh and how very emotional (they were) and how this single issue is what propelled us into what was a very tumultuous year," Burgoyne said, referring to the June 1984 Indian army operation in the Golden Temple.
Many warnings and threats revealed at the hearings have pointed to plans to exact retribution on the anniversary of the operation.

"When violence increased in the Punjab, we saw a level of tension rising in Canada, so it was very important for us to keep abreast of events in the Punjab," he was quoted as saying by the Toronto Star.

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