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Rediff News  All News  » News » 21 years later, Bedi believes daughter survived Kanishka bombing

21 years later, Bedi believes daughter survived Kanishka bombing

September 27, 2006 12:46 IST

Parkash Bedi lost his entire family -- wife Saroj, son Jatin and daughter Anu -- in the Air India tragedy of June 23, 1985. Air India's Flight 182 from Montreal to New Delhi via London was blown up by suspected Sikh terrorists over the sea at Ireland, killing all 329 passengers and crew aboard.


Bedi's was the most heart-wrenching, emotional testimony heard by the Air India Inquiry Commission on Tuesday, with Bedi breaking down several times. At one stage the proceedings had to be interrupted and the Commission's co-counsel, Anil Kapoor, had to rush to the witness stand to help Bedi.


After the tragedy Bedi found the bodies of his wife and son but not his daughter's. He believed his daughter Anu, 15 years old at the time of the tragedy, may still be alive. "She could have amnesia, could have been picked up by a Spanish fisherman and is living in Spain."


In 1986, "I went by myself to a Spanish town where the commercial fishermen dock and made posters with her photo offering a reward of $100,000." He put up those posters in the town and in the nearby areas. People thought he had gone crazy but Bedi said, "Miracles do happen."


Even today he believes his daughter might call him one day and so he hasn't changed his telephone number or the house.


The sad part is that many of the victims boarded the Air India flight because some found the seats at the last minute, some changed their plans and decided to leave earlier than they were supposed to.


In case of Bedi's family, it was supposed to be a surprise 15th birthday party for his daughter Anu in New Delhi. Bedi's mother was supposed to go with them but she had a minor accident and was released from the hospital on June 23, 1985, the day Air India Kanishka blew up.  So she decided not to go even though she was booked on the flight – due to which her name initially formed part of the victims' list.


Bedi spent two years with three different counselors before he finally gathered the courage to enter his children's rooms. That is how "I found peace at home," Bedi said.


The fight for compensation was a "nightmare," Bedi told Commissioner John Major. He was contacted by an attorney who offered him compensation money -- Bedi didn't reveal whether it was on behalf of Air India or the Canadian government or what the amount was -- "which made me angry," Bedi told the Commission.


"I told him if he had a son or daughter for sale, I would pay him double the amount he was offering to buy them. He never called me back..."


Bedi said he had promised on the bodies of his son and wife in the victims' memorial at Cork (Ireland),

that he "would create memorials in as many countries as I can."


As part of that promise, Bedi commissioned a mural in his son's and daughter's school.


He said he has "also created scholarships at Miranda House, a prestigious college in New Delhi, in memory of my wife and daughter."


He has also started a scholarship in his daughter's name in a college in India.


Bedi told the Commission how in his son's memory he also started an annual saucer tournament. The Jatin Bedi Memorial Tournament has grown into a large event in which about 16 teams from across India compete.


Bedi has published a book about his son's life and the Air India tragedy, and copies are distributed at the tournament each year.


However, he was sad the Canadian government did not support its own citizens. He said, "They should have worked harder to help the survivors."


Bedi told the commissioner that he has been suffering since 1985. "Please don't let anybody suffer. Don't make the same mistakes that happened at that time."


His concluding testimony was powerful, and meaningful "In Canada I felt -- in the aftermath of the Air India tragedy -- that I should never want to be an Indian-born Canadian, because nobody cares for you. I have asked former Prime Minister Paul Martin what would have happened if instead people of Indian origin, the plane was full of people of European origin."


Other family members who testified included Susheel Gupta, who lost his mother, Dr Padmini Turlapati, who lost both her sons, Zerina Pai, who lost her brother, Noshair Vaid, and Rama Bhardwaj, who lost her son.


They all expressed unhappiness over the 21 years taken to order this public inquiry, but hoped that failures by government agencies would be pointed out by Commissioner Major in his report.


Some family members read out their statements, some testimonies were in Q&A format and statements were read by the Commissioner's co-counsel, Anil Kapoor.


The testimonies would continue this week before the Commission starts listening to Irish sailors and others who were involved in the rescue operation.

Ajit Jain in Ottawa