UNSOLVED MYSTERIES AS AIR INDIA TRIAL BEGINS
Monday, April 28, 2003
VANCOUVER – Key players in the
sinister plot which destroyed Air India Flight 182 in mid-flight over the
Atlantic ocean on June 23, 1985 remain unidentified even as the trial of
two men begins in Vancouver today.
Among the key players still unknown to the
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Air India Task Force are the two men who
callously boarded bag bombs at Vancouver International Airport a few hours
apart on June 22, 1985. Both men, identified by their tickets as M. Singh
and L. Singh, failed to board their flights after their bags were
successfully checked in.
The bag checked in by M. Singh exploded aboard Air India Flight 182 as the
Boeing 747 cruised at an altitude of 31,000 feet, killing all 329
passengers and crew aboard the Jumbo jet.
The second bag, checked in by L. Singh, made a dangerous 10-hour journey
aboard CP Air Flight 003 from Vancouver to Tokyo. It was destined for an
Air India Flight scheduled to depart Tokyo with 270 passengers but
exploded in the terminal building instead killing two baggage handlers and
Despite investigations in India and Canada,
RCMP still have no clue who the two men were even though dozens of
possible leads have been checked out.
The Air India bombing, according to extensive world-wide investigations,
was the joint project of at least two, if not three terrorist groups with
extensive membership at that time in Canada, the US, England and India. A
group of Sikh militants running on emotional fuel sparked by the attack on
the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June 1984, decided to blow up two Air
India airplanes almost simultaneously in different parts of the world.
Still unaccounted for is another key player. He is the man known to police
alternately as The Third Man or the UM (Unknown Male) who accompanied
Babar Khalsa terrorist Talwinder Singh Parmar on a ferry ride from
Vancouver to Duncan on Vancouver Island where Parmar was scheduled to
inspect an explosive device manufactured by his ally Inderjit Singh Reyat.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service was following Parmar on June 4,
1985 as he and a youthful man emerged from Parmar's home and were driven
to the ferry terminal by long-time Parmar supporter Surjan Singh Gill -
the man who established the consulate of Khalistan in Vancouver in 1981.
Investigators know that the Third Man remained in Duncan with Reyat after
Parmar was shown a bush bomb experiment. CSIS agents who heard the boom in
the bush and subsequently reported the matter to the RCMP have been unable
to positively identify the man and neither have the RCMP.
In November 1985, Inderjit Singh Reyat admitted to police the man stayed
at his home for a few days. However, Reyat had a hard time remembering who
he was because he said Sikhs call each other "pratji" - meaning brother.
Pressed to remember, he said was unsure but thought the man's name was
Surjit Singh - a teacher possibly from the Toronto area.
Police have a bunch of suspects but have not managed to pin down the
identity of the UM.
It is believed Reyat will continue to claim he gave away bomb parts to the
UM and did not himself build the two bombs. It is expected Reyat will be
called to testify but most experts doubt Reyat will say any more about who
the mystery man was.
Also unknown positively so far is who picked up the tickets from CP Air's
downtown office after paying $3005 in cash. An agent who sold the tickets
said the man wore a large saffron turban and had a wad of cash and the
names of two passengers written on a piece of paper. Suspicions about the
man's identity have not materialized into evidence and no charges have
been laid in relation to the ticket pickup.
DEATHS COMPLICATE CASE
Complicating the case is the fact that key
members of the plot are dead.
In 1992, agents of the government of India killed Parmar when he entered
their country from Pakistan on a terror mission. The death restricted
RCMP's ability to pursue inquiries relating to Parmar's knowledge of the
More recently, a Vancouver adherent of a fundamentalist prayer group,
Hardial Singh Johal also died. CSIS wiretaps indicate he had received
instructions from Parmar to "write the story" just moments before a man
telephoned CP Air and booked two tickets. The phone number left behind
with CP Air booking agents was Johal's former number. Johal was also seen
at Vancouver Airport on the morning the two bags were checked in but was
never charged for lack of sufficient evidence.
Also dead is Parmar's ticket agent, Amarjit Singh Pawa who usually ran
around and made reservations whenever Parmar was flying. RCMP were hoping
Pawa would make a death bed statement while he was acutely ill from liver
disease but this did not materialize.
CASE TO HINGE ON THREE WITNESSES
In the absence of any DNA, smoking gun,
material evidence of a bomb on Air India or any forensics and wiretaps,
the crown will rely on three key witnesses in an attempt to convict
Vancouver sawmill worker Ajaib Singh Bagri who was member of the Babar
Khalsa, and Vancouver businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik.
Bagri and Malik have been charged with multiple counts of murder and
attempted murder as well as conspiracy.
Both the crown and the media have made much of a fiery speech delivered by
Bagri at Madison Square Garden in New York following the Golden Temple
attack in which he essentially declared war on India.
However, such speeches were common place around that time as this author
went around various places where Sikhs congregated in the heated months
following the Golden Temple attack which left millions of Sikh in tears.
One such fiery speech - in the style of Winston Churchill - was made by
former Vancouver editor Tara Singh Hayer at a Seattle Sikh Temple in June
of 1985 - a few days before the Air India bombing.
Gathered at the temple near Seattle and in the company of other fellow
militants, Hayer made a boisterous speech calling on Sikh to fight the
government of India in the streets, in the wards and in the villages to
avenge the Golden Temple attack.
Ironically, Bagri is also charged in connection with a plot to kill Hayer
in 1988 when a youth shot the separatist newspaper editor and left him
Hayer, one of the founders of Sikh militancy in Canada, and a former
Indian army officer with the rank of Captain, was subsequently killed in
an attack outside his home on November 1998 while local Sikhs were
embroiled in a dispute over whether temple meals should be eaten on the
floor or while sitting at tables and chairs. It is believed he was killed
for using foul language in his newspaper toward the religious chief of the
by Salim Jiwa
Author of "The Death of Air india Flight 182"
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