V A N C O U V ER, Canada, Nov. 1 -- 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.