Pilot’s son recalls horror
PRIME Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday in a statement on the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism said: “Thirty-five years ago today, an explosion on Air India Flight 182, bound for the United Kingdom from Canada, killed the 329 innocent people on board, including 280 Canadians.
“The attack was an act of unspeakable malice and remains the deadliest terrorist attack in Canadian history. It was a shock to our country, and a threat to our collective sense of security. Terrorism in Canada did not begin with this heinous act and, sadly, did not end there either.
“Today, on the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism, I join Canadians across the country to remember and pay tribute to all Canadian victims of terrorism. We offer our deepest sympathies to families and friends who have lost loved ones, and to everyone living with the pain and trauma caused by these senseless acts of violence.
“Those who commit these cowardly acts seek to instill fear and divide us. They will not succeed. Canadians will always choose compassion over hate and acceptance over intolerance. We are at our best and most resilient when we embrace diversity and equality, and these acts of terrorism only strengthen our resolve to build a more inclusive Canada.
“We stand in solidarity with all those affected by terrorism worldwide, and will continue to work closely with our international partners to end violent extremism, promote inclusion, and defend peace and justice within our global community.
“Today and every day, we will honour those we have lost to terrorism by continuing to fight hate and intolerance, and work to make Canada and the world a safer and more secure place for everyone.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan said: “It’s been 35 years since 329 passengers and crew on Air India Flight 182 were murdered. Two hundred and eighty Canadian lives lost and countless family and friends’ lives forever changed by this cowardly act. The bombing of Air India Flight 182 is the largest mass killing in Canadian history. Today, we remember all Canadians, both at home and overseas, who have been victimized by acts of terrorism.
“I can only imagine how difficult the last 35 years have been for those directly affected by this attack. Annual memorials take place around the world and here in British Columbia, families and friends have gathered to remember at the Air India memorial in Stanley Park.
“The trauma from acts of terrorism are still with us today and for some, the trauma may never heal. However, days like today remind us of our shared humanity and the empathy we can have for those in need. It also provides us a moment to pause and reflect on the tragedy of lives lost too soon.
“Together, we can build a stronger society when we defend our shared values of diversity, equality, kindness and respect, while also building a more inclusive, multicultural country where everyone feels welcome.”
IANS reports from Toronto:
As relatives of the 1985 Air India Kanishka bombing remembered their loved ones on the 35th anniversary of the tragedy on Tuesday, the son of the pilot of the ill-fated plane said Canada has let them down by not punishing the guilty.
Only one person — Inderjit Singh Reyat — was jailed. The two other main accused — Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri — were acquitted.
“My dad was 57 at that time. This painful day is etched in my memory… the feelings remain the same even after 35 years. It feels like yesterday,” Anil Singh Hanse, whose father Narendra Singh Hanse was the commander of Flight 182, told IANS.
He said, “The bombing was a political issue and Canadian politicians do not want to upset the vote bank. That’s why this case was never taken seriously. Some politicians and law enforcement officers still attend events organized by the alleged perpetrators.”
Urging Trudeau to take up this issue sincerely, especially the recommendations from the inquiry in 2010, Hanse said, “The PM must not just send a tweet on this day. He must acknowledge the trauma and what we have experienced. There will be no closure until the perpetrators are retried and sentenced.”
India too could have done much more in supporting its citizens by working closely with Canada to solve the crime as it was not just a Canadian issue, he said.
Recalling the tragic day, he said, “When the Air India Kanishka flight started from Mumbai to Canada, I travelled with my father till Delhi as I had to catch a flight to London from Delhi. I was in Aberdeen in Scotland on a diving assignment with an offshore oil rig on that day.
“I was staying at a bed and breakfast hotel with other divers. I had to catch a helicopter at 9 a.m. to leave for the offshore rig when the news broke. As I was having my breakfast, one of the American divers, who was listening to news on radio, told me that an Air India flight had crashed.”
He said, “I was dazed. My mind went blank. Frantically, I started calling Air India to find out as I knew my dad was on the plane, but they didn’t know what to say… they were in total chaos. I caught a flight to London later in the day. At the Air India office at Heathrow, the staff were totally overwhelmed. Everybody was living through a nightmare.”
Air India put them up in hotels in London for three to four days before taking the families to Cork in Ireland where the bodies of some of the victims were brought, he recalled.
“Air India organised our air tickets and I went to Delhi where we performed a havan for my father at a temple in Greater Kailash. Then we performed ceremonies in Mumbai,” he said.