Remembering Terror: The 39th Anniversary of the Kanishka Air Attack

The aircraft in the Kanishka incident, two weeks prior to the attacks. Source: wikipedia
The aircraft in the Kanishka incident, two weeks prior to the attacks. Source: wikipedia

Today marks the 39th anniversary of the tragic Kanishka Air Attack an event that has left left indelible marks on the global Sikh community as well as India as a whole. It was the first terrorist attack overseas on India and its interests with the bombing of a Air India flight in 1985. With Canada continuing to pursue a policy of appeasement towards Khalistani terrorists and now opening five fold the number of visas for Gazans, the country seems to be headed to be a soft haven for violence against India and Israel. 

The Kanishka air attack, a dark chapter in aviation history

On June 23, 1985, Air India Flight 182, also known as Kanishka, was en route from Montreal to Delhi via London when it was destroyed mid-air by a bomb, killing all 329 passengers and crew on board. This heinous act remains the deadliest aviation terror attack before 9/11 and the worst mass murder in Canadian history.

The bombing was carried out by Sikh terrorists sheltered by Canada, seeking revenge against the Indian government for the military operation at the Golden Temple in 1984. The attack not only devastated families but also highlighted the global reach of terrorism and the vulnerabilities in international aviation security.

In the years that followed, the investigation into the Kanishka bombing faced numerous challenges, including a lack of evidence, procedural missteps, and international complexities. Despite these hurdles, the tragedy led to significant changes in aviation security protocols and policies worldwide. However almost none of the perpetrators were punished, with Pierre Trudeau (current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father) ignoring all warnings from Indian intelligence and sheltering almost all of the terrorists. An India Today report describes in details how father and son have supported Khalistani terrorists acting against India from their soil. It also says “​​Parmar, whom Pierre Trudeau shielded, was the mastermind of the Kanishka bombing. He was killed by police in Punjab in 1992. In June this year, posters honouring Parmar were seen at various locations in Canada.”

Hardeep Singh Nijjar: Terrorist or Activist?

One year ago, on June 23, 2023, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Sikh Khalistani leader and terrorist in Canada, was tragically killed. Nijjar was known for his anti India rhetoric, call to arms against India. He was also on Canada’s no fly list and his accounts were frozen as he was suspected by the Canadians of financing terrorism. He was a vocal proponent of Khalistan, a proposed independent Sikh state, which made him a controversial figure. Hardeep Singh Nijjar, originally from Jalandhar in Punjab, migrated to Canada in 1996 with false papers. Before joining the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), Nijjar was associated with the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), a group known for its separatist activities (funded by Pakistans ISI).

Connections and Activities

According to intelligence dossiers, Nijjar traveled to Pakistan between 2013 and 2014, where he held meetings with the self-styled KTF chief Tara and officials from Islamabad’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). These meetings were reportedly aimed at furthering the separatist agenda.

Nijjar is also accused of organizing an arms training camp in Mission Hills, British Columbia, Canada. There, he allegedly trained Mandeep Singh Dhaliwal and other youths in the use of AK-47 rifles, sniper rifles, and pistols. In 2016, Dhaliwal was sent to Punjab with the mission to target Shiv Sena leaders (a Indian Hindu political party) and other political leaders.

In 2020, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India registered a complaint against Nijjar, along with UK-based Paramjit Singh Pamma and Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) founder Gurpatwant Singh Pannu. The charges included sedition, criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, imputations and assertions prejudicial to national integration.

The trio was also booked under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), a stringent anti-terror law.

The intelligence dossier further accused Nijjar and his mentee, Arsh Dala, of involvement in several violent incidents including the killing of Dera Sacha Sauda follower Manohar Lal in Bathinda (2020), a murderous attack on Hindu priest Pragya Gyan Muni in Phillaur (2021) and the attempted abduction and killing of Shakti Singh in Faridkot.

In 2020, Nijjar was designated as a terrorist by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of India under UAPA. 

Lack of Justice

Canadian investigators have long maintained that the Air India bombings were orchestrated by Sikh separatists in retaliation for the Indian Army’s 1984 assault on the Golden Temple in Punjab. Key figures in the investigation included Talwinder Singh Parmar, leader of the extremist group Babbar Khalsa, and Inderjit Singh Reyat, an electrician. Although Parmar was initially arrested, he was released due to insufficient evidence. Later, investigators identified Parmar, who was killed by police in India in 1992, as the primary mastermind behind the attack.

Following the bombing, Canadian authorities faced intense criticism for their failure to prevent the attack and their handling of the investigation. This criticism led to a public inquiry initiated by the Canadian government in 2006, headed by a former Supreme Court judge. The inquiry, concluding in 2010, revealed a “cascading series of errors” that contributed to what it termed the “largest mass murder in Canadian history.”

One of the most damning revelations from the inquiry was that Canadian police had been warned months before the bombing about a plot to destroy a plane by an unidentified witness. This crucial warning was tragically ignored.

Additionally, according to a report by the BBC in 2000, a former Canadian secret services officer admitted to destroying tapes containing 150 hours of telephone calls made by Sikh suspects. The officer claimed he did this instead of handing them over to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to protect the identity of informants.

These findings underscore significant lapses in the investigation and highlight the complexities and challenges faced by authorities in dealing with such a catastrophic act of terrorism. The legacy of the Air India bombing continues to shape Canadian security policies and the country’s approach to preventing future acts of terrorism.

By maintaining a minute of silence for an accused terrorist the Canadian government continues its defence of terrorists, by now increasing five fold visas for Gazans, over time, the “Khalistan” problem and the “Palestine” issue will divide Canada more.

Canada does have options, as do other countries such as Qatar, which often shield criminal terrorist movements under the guise of human rights and political activism. In 2024, there is no room for violence, against civilians or state by non-state actors. Political movements that have been historically successful have been peaceful and sought relief in process and dialogue. Canada must clean itself of criminal elements which it supports for vote bank politics. If it does not as Khalistan has now consumed Canadian politics, Palestine will shortly as well.  

About the Author
Carlo Lombardi is a Canadian Italian Chartered Accountant during the day. His passions are India and Israel and the deep philosophies that bind ancient people. He likes to study geopolitics and is associated with Fondazione Fare Futuro, an Italian think-tank. He is bilingual in Italian and English.
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