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CURRENT AFFAIRS   Investigation

KANISHKA TRAGEDY

OPERATION SILENCE

The police encounter of Kanishka bombing’s alleged mastermind, Talwinder Parmar, may have been staged to save the real players. Vikram Jit Singh reports

Fifteen years after Babbar Khalsa International leader Talwinder Singh Parmar, one of the two alleged masterminds of the mid-air bombing of Air India’s Kanishka airplane, was shown as having being killed in an encounter in Punjab, retired Punjab Police DSP Harmail Singh Chandi, who nabbed Parmar from Jammu in September 1992 and interrogated him for five days before he was killed along with five others, has come forward with the claim that Parmar was killed in police custody on the orders of senior police officers, who also asked his confession record to be destroyed. In his confession, Parmar had named Lakhbir Singh Brar “Rode”, nephew of the late Bhindranwale and head of the banned International Sikh Youth Federation, as the mastermind of the bombing. Rode, who is now said to be holed up in Lahore, has never figured in the investigations of either the CBI or the Canadian authorities.

Chandi has brought forward the entire record of Parmar’s confession, including audio tapes and statements, before the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the John Major Commission of Inquiry that is reinvestigating the June 23, 1985 blast that claimed 331 lives off the Irish coast. Chandi had been ordered by senior officers to destroy the records but he retained them secretly. The record was brought before the Major Commission due to seven-year-long investigations by the Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO), a Chandigarh-based ngo that conducted interviews of Parmar’s associates in India and Canada and pieced together a comprehensive report. The PHRO’s Principal Investigator Sarbjit Singh and lawyer Rajvinder Singh Bains flew to Canada along with Harmail in June and produced their findings before the Commission’s counsels.

A Canadian citizen, Parmar was shown as having been killed in an exchange of fire between police and six militants in the wee hours of October 15, 1992, near village Kang Arian in Phillar sub-division. However, evidence brought forward by Harmail (who was then DSP, Phillaur) shows that Parmar was interrogated between October 9 and 14 by senior police officers, where he revealed that the blasts were instigated by Lakhbir Singh Brar Rode.

Parmar’s confession reads: “Around May 1985, a functionary of the International Sikh Youth Federation came to me and introduced himself as Lakhbir Singh and asked me for help in conducting some violent activities to express the resentment of the Sikhs. I told him to come after a few days so that I could arrange for dynamite and battery etc. He told me that he would first like to see a trial of the blast...After about four days, Lakhbir Singh and another youth, Inderjit Singh Reyat, both came to me. We went into the jungle (of British Columbia). There we joined a dynamite stick with a battery and triggered off a blast. Lakhbir and Inderjit, even at that time, had in their minds a plan to blast an aeroplane. I was not too keen on this plan but agreed to arrange for the dynamite sticks. Inderjit wanted to use for this purpose a transistor fitted with a battery...That very day, they took dynamite sticks from me and left.

“Then Lakhbir Singh, Inderjit Singh and their accomplice, Manjit Singh, made a plan to plant bombs in an Air India (AI) plane leaving from Toronto via London for Delhi and another flight that was to leave Tokyo for Bangkok. Lakhbir Singh got the seat booking done from Vancouver to Tokyo and then onwards to Bangkok, while Manjit Singh got it done from Vancouver to Toronto and then from Toronto to Delhi. Inderjit prepared the bags for the flights, which were loaded with dynamite bombs fitted with a battery and transistor. They decided that the suitcases will be booked but they themselves will not travel by the same flights although they will take the boarding passes. After preparing these bombs, the plan was ready for execution by June 21 or 22, 1985. However, the bomb to be kept in the flight from Tokyo to Delhi via Bangkok exploded at the Narita airport on the conveyor belt. The second suitcase that was loaded on the Toronto-Delhi ai flight exploded in the air.”

Sarabjit said the PHRO’s probe has shown that Parmar was killed to hide the name of Lakhbir, who was an Indian agent. “After the Khalistan movement gained in sympathy in the West, especially in Canada, after the 1984 Blue Star operation and the killing of Sikhs in Delhi, a plot was hatched to discredit the Sikh movement. Parmar was roped in by Lakhbir at the behest of his masters. The Punjab Police got orders to finish off Parmar as he knew too much about the main perpetrators. On the day of the Kanishka blast, an explosion took place at Japan’s Narita airport, where two Japanese baggage handlers were killed. The plot was to trigger blasts when the two aircraft had de-embarked their passengers but the 1 hour 40 minute delay in Kanishka’s takeoff led to the bomb exploding mid-air,” Sarbjit said.

What gives credence to Sarabjit’s charge is the Source Report (in Tehelka’s posession) prepared by the Jalandhar Police soon after Parmar was killed. Based on information provided by Parmar — though not attributing it to his interrogation — the report makes no reference to Lakhbir. Interestingly, Lakhbir, accused in many acts of terrorist violence, is wanted by the Indian Government in only a minor case registered in Moga, Punjab. The Red Corner Interpol notice, A-23/1-1997, put out by the CBI against Lakhbir states: “OFFENCES: House breaking, theft, damage by fire.”

The PHRO told Canadian authorties that conclusive evidence existed of Parmar being killed in police custody and not in the “encounter” shown in FIR No 105 registered at Phillaur police station on October 15, 1992. The PHRO report, AI Flight 182 Case, states “On October 14, 1992, a high-level decision was conveyed to the police that Parmar had to be killed...The contradiction in the FIR and post-mortem report (PMR) is too obvious. As per the FIR, Parmar was killed by AK-47 fire by SSP Satish K Sharma from a rooftop. The PMR shows the line of fire of the three bullets is different. It cannot be if one person is firing from a fixed position. The PMR is very sketchy and no chemical analysis was done. Moreover, the time of death is between 12am and 2am according to the PMR, whereas the FIR records the time of death at 5.30am.”

Then Jalandhar SSP and now IGP, Satish K Sharma, denied the charge. “It was a clean encounter. The RCMP is bringing this up because they botched their investigations and failed to get convictions,” he said.

» Writer’s e-mail: vjs@sancharnet.in

Aug 04 , 2007

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