Families of Air India bombing victims seek memorial in Delhi

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS,

Toronto/New Delhi : Families of the perished crew of the Air India plane that was blown up in mid-air in June 1985 have urged the Indian government to commemorate the tragedy. They want the government to bring back parts of the wreckage of the plane from Vancouver and use them in raising a memorial in New Delhi.

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Air India Kanishka Flight 182 from Montreal to Delhi was blown up mid-air near Ireland June 23, 1985, killing all 329 people on board by a bomb planted by Khalistani extremists to avenge the Indian Army anti-terrorist operation at the Golden Temple in June 1984.

Drawing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s attention to India’s failure to honour the victims even 25 years after the tragedy, Anil Singh Hanse, son of Flight 182 pilot Narendra Singh Hanse, Amarjit Bhinder, wife of co-pilot Satwinder Singh Bhinder, and Sundra Arora, mother of flight attendant Shyla Juju, have demanded a suitable memorial in New Delhi.

“As you are aware that Canada and Ireland have built four memorials and one memorial respectively (to the victims), but we have none in India,” the letter reminds the prime minister.

“We do request your office to consider building a Kanishka memorial in Delhi for remembrance of those whose lives were sacrificed for no fault of their own. The Great Emperor Kanishka (plane), bearing proudly an Indian flag, lies in a warehouse, rotting. (Mr) Prime Minister, at least some pieces (of the wreckage) could be used in the memorial in India.”

After submitting the letter to the prime minister jointly with the overseas Congress (California), Bhinder told IANS that Canada should also join hands with India in raising the proposed memorial in the Indian capital.

“Since it was a Canadian tragedy, Canada should work with India on it. A memorial in India is all the more important because we cannot afford to go to Ireland every year. It is very expensive to undertake this journey,” said Bhinder, who is based in Gurgaon.

But the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said Monday that the Air India wreckage stored in Vancouver could not be released as it was still needed for a future trial.

“The wreckage is owned by the government of India but the RCMP, or Canada has custody of it and will maintain custody until there is no possibility of a future trial, because it is all considered evidence,” the RCMP said.

The crew families also hinted at racism in their treatment by Canada. “Canada has done nothing for us – the families of 22 crew members. We should have been treated at par with Canadians because the bombing originated in Canada. We have got nothing from them,” Bhinder said.

She said Canada should also show no let-up in the case as only one person Inderjit Singh Reyat has been jailed so far.

“We don’t believe in revenge, but we hope that the guilty would be caught one day. The Punjabi community in Canada should cooperate with RCMP officers working on the Air India file,” said Bhinder.

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at [email protected])