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Kanishka victim's kin slams ceremony honouring suspect

By Ajit Jain in Toronto
November 02, 2007 01:15 IST
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Rattan Singh Kalsi, who lost his 21-year-old daughter Indira in the Air India bombing of June 23, 1985, is upset with the Surrey Gurdwara for organising an Akhand Paath to honour Talwinder Singh Parmar, prime suspect in the case.

In a telephone interview, Kalsi told, "This Akhand Paath should be done to honour Indo-Canadian journalist Tara Singh Hayer, who was killed by the terrorists, and not to honour Parmar, a terrorist."

Hayer was getting ready to testify in the court. He knew too much about the conspiracy and reports say he was warned, but because he persisted on writing in his paper Indo-Canada Times, he paid the price.

"I lost my daughter Indira in that bombing along with 328 other innocent people. So, Akhand Paath should be for these victims and not for the terrorists," Kalsi said repeatedly.

He is one of the Air India bombing victims' families who almost invariably carries a photo of his daughter in his shirt's breast pocket and holds it aloft whenever there is any discussion about the incident. He gets very emotional and nobody can find fault with that.

Kalsi said he came to know about the Akhand Paath at the Surrey Gurdwara after it took place last month.

"I understand about 200 people were present. I objected strongly and these people haven't replied to me, not as yet. I am not afraid of them. They can come and kill me. I have already lost my daughter."

A report in the Toronto Star says the president of Surrey Gurdwara, where the religious service was held, said he cannot deny people's requests for such (Akhand Paath) services.  It was requested by Parmar's wife. 

"It is very wrong. The Canadian government should open its eyes and not allow such services to take place," Kalsi said.

Himself a Sikh, Kalsi said he has seen people honoring Bhindaranwale also. 

"They should instead do the Akhand Paath to honor General Vaidya who too was killed by these Sikh terrorists. I will continue to raise my voice as to why they should do such an Akhand Paath. They wear orange-coloured turbans and still talk about Khalistan. They forget what orange color signified during our independence struggle when we, irrespective of our faiths, used to sing Rang de Basanti Chola…"

Kalsi was recently called by Air India Commission of Inquiry to appear before Justice John Major, chair of the Inquiry Commission.

"I was interviewed by Judge major for 55 minutes. They have sent me a video of my interview."

As he was critical of the Canadian government for allowing such ceremonies in the local gurdwaras, Kalsi was equally happy and thankful that Prime Minister Stephen Harper sent him a letter of congratulation on his 50th wedding anniversary. Kalsi is hoping something emerges from the inquiry, but he couldn't say what.

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Ajit Jain in Toronto
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