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'Unfortunate end to a disastrous beginning'

Last updated on: March 19, 2005 00:51 IST
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Sikhindra Mitra lost his elder sister, Barsha Kelly, in the June, 1985 Kanishka bombing. Barsha was on her way to Kolkata to meet her parents when the tragedy struck.
A British Columbia Supreme Court judge on Wednesday acquitted Ripudaman Singh Malik, 57, and Ajaib Singh Bagri, 55 -- the two accused of planting the bomb in the aircraft -- of all charges.

Sikhindra recalls the day the got the chilling news and the years of pain that followed:

The day is etched in my memory. Didi was going to India to see my father who just broke his hip and had a surgery. Also, she was negotiating with a major university in India to finish her PH.D. Moreover,  she used to enjoy visiting her native country and especially Kolkata, because her parents were there. She always used to keep in touch with other relatives and friends back home.  She was very popular because of her friendliness and affection.  She was a born leader.

Also see:
'Why are we always the victims?'

Next morning Baba, Ma and all of us were stunned. I, my wife Bharati, elder sister Alaka, brother-in-law Ken and nieces Lorna and Nikki were dumbfounded by the news of the Kanishka crash. For days after the tragedy we failed to digest the fact that we won't see Didi again. Consolation, in any form, seemed useless. So seemed the investigation that followed.

Yet, after a while we thought the probe was necessary to know who killed our loved one.

Time, they say, is the best healer. Months passed, years rolled by and our bruised hearts were somewhat repaired. Yet the culprits were not pinned down. Our sorrow lay buried in the long wait.

Also read: Jubilation in Bagri's village

Suddenly there was a gleam of hope. We braced ourselves as the verdict of the Kanishka case was about to be pronounced. Lorna, a lawyer by now, headed for British Columbia to witness the proceedings.
Then, the second tragedy struck. The alleged criminals were set free. Our heavy hearts grew heavier.

Also see: Relatives demand public inquiry

As responsible citizens, we state we are deeply disappointed at the outcome of the trial. We had hoped that the guilty would be punished. It was frustrating that it took almost 20 years to have a proper hearing in the case. As the case progressed, we found out that valuable evidence was lost and hostile witnesses had to be dealt with. Still there was a glimmer of hope that may be finally there would be a closure. It was an unfortunate end to a disastrous beginning.

Sikhindra Mitra and her family are now settled in the US.

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