The violent death of Ripudaman Singh Malik, who was acquitted in the 1985 Air India terrorist bombings, won’t bring closure to the families of the terrorists attack’s victims, according to a former B.C. premier.
“This doesn’t bring us any closer to closure for the Air India families, in fact — it opens up wounds for Mr. Malik’s family that he’s left behind, and they have this loss to contend with,” Ujjal Dosnjh, who served as B.C.’s first Indo-Canadian premier, told CKNW’s The Jas Johal Show.
“No one is a winner in this.”
Dosnjh was a law student when he first met Malik in the 1970s. At the time, Malik was a “ganja smoking ponytail hippy” with a business in Gastown.
He said something changed in Malik in the late 1970s, as he became more focused on religion and, with Dosanjh’s help, set up a society to found a Sikh religious school.
Following the Indian government’s raid on the Golden Temple in 1984, and the subsequent massacre of Sikhs, he said Malik was drawn deeper into religious radicalism.
“I think Mr. Malik got swept up in that and had become a fundamentalist, had become a supporter of the extremists,” he said.
The blockbuster acquittal of Malik and co-accused Ajaib Singh Bagri on charges of mass murder and conspiracy in the Air India bombings that killed 331 people, most of them Canadian, was a tragedy for the victims’ families, Dosanjh said.
But he said the apparently targeted killing of Malik isn’t justice for those families either, who deserved to see a successful prosecution, conviction and imprisonment.
“My heart also goes out to the families of the Air India tragedy that were left behind, their loved ones downed the with Air India into the Irish Sea, and I think of them too at this moment, and I don’t believe that they would have wanted this ending for Mr. Malik,” he said.
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“I don’t think anybody should consider this as justice for or for the families.”
Rob Alexander of Hamilton, Ont., was 15 when his father boarded Flight 182 to visit his mother in India.
Alexander was supposed to go with his dad, Dr. Mathew Alexander, a cardiac surgeon, who was booked on an Air France flight before switching to Air India because it turned out to be cheaper.
“He said to me, ‘Go to your basketball camp. I’ll be back in 10 days.”’
Alexander said he’s grappling with how to deal with hearing about Malik’s death.
“It’s a very weird feeling to describe. Because in the end, we’ve gone through all the hurt and trauma and we had no support from the government over the years,” he said.
Alexander and other families credit the residents of Cork, Ireland, who supported them as they arrived to identify the bodies of their loved ones.
Families did not hear for days that everyone on board had died. Alexander said he believed that his dad was busy helping people as a 40-year surgeon who was j”ust getting into his stride and was very well respected in his community.”
Malik, a successful businessman, founder of the Khalsa Credit Union and head of the network of Sikh Khalsa schools in Canada, was gunned down around 9:30 a.m. Thursday at a home in Surrey’s Newton neighbourhood.
The Lower Mainland’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said it was still working to determine a motive in the killing, adding it was “aware of Mr. Malik’s background.”
Kash Heed, former B.C. solicitor general and former chief of the West Vancouver police, said Malik’s killings had all the hallmarks of a “paid-for gang-style hit.”
Police, he told the Jas Johal Show, will have their hands full combing through a number of possible motives in the killing.
“Of course, his political advocacy and political activism will be key to it as it relates to the Babbar Khalsa (Sikh independence) movement, as it relates to the Air India incident that did take place, as it relates to some of his other activities that have occurred in British Columbia and of course, his business dealings,” Heed said.
“I think it’ll cause a fair amount of discussion, not only with the victims families, but other that are involved in the activist movement here in Canada and some of the terrorist organizations that still have roots here in Canada … but as far as any violence takes place, as it’s related to this political activism, I’m not sure we have to worry too much about that.”
The Air India bombings remain the largest mass-killing in Canada’s history. There were 268 Canadians aboard Flight 182, when it exploded off the coast of Ireland on June 23, 1985.
Two baggage handlers were killed when a second bomb exploded in a bag at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport as it was being transferred to Air India Flight 301.