A new Mr. X in Air India bombing plot

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS

Toronto : A Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer sprang a surprise at the ongoing Air India inquiry when he said that the plot to bomb the Delhi-bound Flight 182 in June 1985 could possibly have been solved long ago if the Canadian Secret Intelligence Service (CSIS) had not stopped his police force from pursuing a suspect just days before the tragedy.

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The suspect, called Mr. X, had allegedly tested the bomb that brought down Flight 182 on June 23, 1985, off the Irish coast, killing all 329 people on board.

Minutes later, a second bomb, aimed at another Air India flight, had gone off at Narita airport in Japan, killing two baggage workers.

Both the bombs had reportedly originated in Vancouver which was the hotbed of Sikh militants at that time. The bombings were said to be their handiwork to avenge the Indian Army assault on the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

The plot mastermind, Talwinder Singh Parmar, died in a shootout with police in India in 1992, and two suspects – Ripduman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri – were acquitted in March 1985 as sufficient evidence could not be produced against them. Only Inderjit Singh Reyat was jailed for his role in making the bomb that brought down the flight.

Until now nobody knew about this Mr. X which came to light Monday at the Air India public inquiry, headed by former Canadian supreme court chief justice John Major.

Giving a sequence of events, RCMP deputy commissioner Gary Bass told the inquiry that on June 4, 1985, Mr. X had accompanied the plot mastermind Parmar in testing the bomb in the jungles of British Columbia’s Duncan town. Parmar was then under watch after India had alerted Canada about a plot to kill then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. .

When Mr. X and Parmar tested the bomb, Bass testified that the CSIS agents thought it was a mere gunshot, mistakenly thinking that the suspects were testing their plot to kill Rajiv Gandhi.

Next day, the CSIS shared this information with his force under the condition that the RCMP should not act. “The RCMP were asked not to do anything with it. The RCMP were asked to treat it as secret,” he said.

He said not identifying Mr. X was a “real missed opportunity” in solving the Air India plot. Identifying that individual “is a very active part of the criminal investigation,” he said.