Family members of Air India flight bombing victims express anguish over Khalistan movement regaining ground in Canada | World News - Hindustan Times
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Family members of Air India flight bombing victims express anguish over Khalistan movement regaining ground in Canada

Jun 21, 2024 01:14 PM IST

The 39th anniversary of the worst ever incident of terror in Canadian history is on June 23. In 1985, the terrorist bombing of the aircraft resulted in the loss of 329 lives, including those of 86 children

Toronto: Family members of the victims of the terrorist bombing of Air India flight 182, the Kanishka, have expressed anguish over “misinformation” over the attack by Khalistani extremists and return of the movement again gaining ground in Canada.

Sikh protesters stand outside of Surrey Provincial Court, where four suspects arrested by Canadian police for the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, appeared, in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, on May 21. (REUTERS)
Sikh protesters stand outside of Surrey Provincial Court, where four suspects arrested by Canadian police for the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, appeared, in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, on May 21. (REUTERS)

The 39th anniversary of the worst ever incident of terror in Canadian history is on June 23. In 1985, the terrorist bombing of the aircraft resulted in the loss of 329 lives, including those of 86 children and is observed in Canada as the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism.

Memorial services for the victims will be held in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal on Sunday. However, now the secessionist group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) has announced it will organise counter “Khalistan Solidarity” rallies at the same venues at the same time on the anniversary.

Among those who are upset with the burgeoning Khalistani activity in Canada is Toronto-based Deepak Khandelwal, who was just 17 when he lost his sisters Chandra and Manju in the tragedy. “Those same types of actions we saw pre the 1985 bombing seem to be appearing again, and we can’t let another terrorist event like this happen again and kill more innocent people,” he said.

“People can peacefully demonstrate in our society. However, I don’t agree with the use of violence or glorification of terrorist acts as has been done recently. With the recent rhetoric - it is painful and hurtful that the facts regarding the bombing of Air India 182 are being lost. It is very concerning that people are trying to rewrite history with misinformation,” he added.

SFJ has once again raised the discredited conspiracy theory that India was behind the bombing. SFJ has become emboldened in Canada since the country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated in the House of Commons on September 18 last year that there were “credible allegations” of a potential link between Indian agents and the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, British Columbia three months earlier. Nijjar’s was SFJ’s principal organiser in the province. Canadian media has compounded the matter by referring to the separatists as “activists”.

That sentiment is shared by Edmonton-based Meera Nair, who lost friends of her family in the terror attack. She said, “The first time, Canada ignored the rising extremism. This time, Canada is encouraging it.”

She was offended by SFJ’s proposed rallies, which she called “repugnant”.

“Canada’s system of the rule of law, revealed through a trial, a public inquiry, and another trial that Talwinder Singh Parmar and his associates were responsible for the bombing of Air India 182 on June 23, 1985. The public inquiry paid close attention to claims that the Indian government was involved and concluded that such claims were baseless. The Indian government of the day did everything in its power to warn Canada of the threat of violence, including identifying the date of suspected violence. Canada ignored all that information, to tragic outcomes,” she added.

SFJ has also called for a boycott of Air India flights out of Canada, starting on June 23.

Professor Chandrima Chakraborty, who is curating a public archive of the tragedy at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, was also troubled by the Ottawa deafness and silence on the issue. She said, “It is unfortunate that Canada has not learnt its lessons from the Air India bombing. And one of the reasons for this is its failure to embrace this tragedy and its losses as Canadian losses despite a public inquiry, the longest and most expensive criminal trial and a federal government apology. The negligence and mistreatment of the families continues in the government’s inability and unwillingness to address the rise of Khalistani rhetoric.”

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