Fifteen years after what remains the world’s deadliest act of air sabotage, Canadian authorities believe they are finally on the verge of cracking the case. Police say there’s evidence of a Sikh terrorist conspiracy behind the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182, which left 329 dead, and the failed bombing of an Air India jet in Tokyo the same day.
Here are some of the names police have been focusing on, and why:
(Feb. 26, 1944-Oct. 15, 1992): The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Air Disaster Task Force considers Parmar the mastermind of both the Air India bombing and the same-day attempt to sabotage Air India Flight 301 in Tokyo. In the latter incident, the bomb exploded prematurely, killing two baggage handlers at Tokyo’s Narita airport.
Parmar, a Sikh preacher, was born in the village of Panchata in Punjab and immigrated to Canada in 1970. He allegedly founded the Babbar Khalsa terrorist group on April 13, 1978. The aim of the organization is the creation of an independent Republic of Khalistan in what is now India’s Punjab State. In 1981, India accused Parmar of murdering a policeman in a Punjab village, forcing him to flee back to Canada.
He vowed revenge on India following the assault of the Golden Temple in Amritsar on June 6, 1984. Because of his fiery pronouncements, Parmar was followed by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which tapped his telephone conversations between March 27 and July 2, 1985.
On June 4, 1985, CSIS agents followed Parmar to a bush area on Vancouver Island, where he watched a test explosion — just 21 days before the air bombings. The man who demonstrated the experimental device was Inderjit Singh Reyat, a Duncan, British Columbia, mechanic and a Sikh fundamentalist.
Parmar was arrested in November 1985 over the Air India disaster, but released for lack of evidence. He was again arrested in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1986 in a plot to blow up the Indian parliament, but problems with identifying a source scuttled the trial.
Around the same time, several Parmar group members were charged with an attempt to blow up an Air India jet that was to take off from JFK airport in New York.
Two of the Babbar Khalsa men were convicted but were released after appeal. In 1988, Parmar fled to Pakistan — allegedly to team up with terrorist forces at a base near Lahore.
On Oct. 15, 1992, Parmar entered India surreptitiously, but was trapped at a police roadblock. He and five others — including two Pakistanis — were killed in the ensuing gunfight.
Inderjit Singh Reyat
(b. March 11, 1952): Canadian police believe Reyat, who is currently in prison, made the bombs intended to destroy the two Air India Flights. He became a suspect when he allegedly carried out a test demonstration of an explosive device for Parmar on June 4, 1985.
CSIS agents stationed some distance away initially thought they heard a gun go off. Later, police found traces of a rudimentary bomb. An investigation of bomb fragments found in Tokyo showed nine items consistent with items purchased or acquired by Reyat prior to the Narita explosion. He allegedly bought two Micronta seven-day timers from Radio Shack, batteries, an FM tuner casing to house the bomb and a VCR, which was never found.
RCMP also say he acquired several sticks of dynamite and a blasting manual in Duncan, British Columbia, where he lived in 1985. Reyat was arrested in a November, 1985 police raid on air disaster suspects and charged with possession of explosives.