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Ripudaman Singh Malik, accused in 1985 Air India bombing, ‘bumped off’ by anti-India forces to reignite Khalistan sentiments? Analysts suspect ISI role

Given that Khalistanis and funded and instructed by ISI, Pakistan, Malik's overtures to the Indian government and appreciation of the work being done for the Sikh community could have prompted an assassination plot, to eliminate a voice that could dent Khalistani sentiments.

Ripudaman Singh Malik, who was accused in the 1985 Air India Kanishka bombing case, has been shot dead in Surrey, Canada. Malik was shot to death as he sat inside his car at about 9:30 AM local time, Thursday, outside an industrial plaza where he has a business office in the 8200-block of 128th Street. Reportedly, a burning car was also discovered near where he was shot dead.

According to reports, police were called in after gunshots were heard and despite first responders giving medical aid to Malik, he succumbed to his injuries after being shot.

CBC News has cited eye witnesses saying that they heard 3 shots that were fired and that this appeared to be a targeted shooting.

Shiromani Akali Dal Delhi president and former chief of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) Paramjit Singh Sarna said in a statement: “I am deeply saddened at the death of Sardar Ripudaman Singh Malik in Canada. The loss is irreparable. Sardar Malik ran a number of Khalsa schools and was at the forefront of humanitarian efforts in Canada. My sincere condolences to his family. We hope Canadian authorities will launch a thorough investigation into his assassination and bring culprits to book.”

Ripudaman Singh Malik had recently praised PM Narendra Modi for the positive steps taken for Sikhs

In January 2022, Ripudaman Singh Malik praised PM Modi for the positive steps taken by him in the interest of the Sikh community. He had written a letter and praised the Prime Minister for the “unprecedented steps”, expressing his “heartfelt gratitude”.

“I am writing you this to express my deep heartfelt gratitude for the unprecedented positive steps taken by yourself to redress long-reading Sikh demands and grievances including the elimination of blacklists that restricted visits to India of thousands of Sikhs living abroad, grant of passports and visas to asylees and their families, reopening of hundreds of 1984-riots closed cases leading to conviction and jail term for some, declaring 1984-riots as ‘genocide’ by then Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh on the floor of the House, giving compensation of Rs. 5.00 lakh per family of the anti-Sikh genocide victims, the opening of Sri Kartarpur Saheb Corridor facilitating pilgrims from India to visit the revered place of our first Master Guru Nanak Dev Ji,” he had said in the letter.

He also expressed happiness on declaration of December 26 – the martyrdom of Guru Gobind Singh’s sons – as ‘Veer Baal Diwas’.

Interestingly, he had also expressed concerns over the concerted campaign of some members of the Sikh community against PM Modi and the Government of India. Promising to work with the government to address pending issues, he had also written a separate letter to the Sikh community. In the letter, he said, “Violence in Punjab only ends up hurting the interests of the Sikh community in Punjab and throughout India and around the world. I do my daily Ardaas for world peace as I do not like seeing my community or any community suffer due to violence”.

“I do not believe it is right to unfairly criticise the Prime Minister given his many positive gestures towards the Sikh community. Instead of criticising we should be appreciating and engaging meaningfully with the government of India under his leadership towards a positive partnership for the future,” Singh further said in the letter.

Who could have killed Ripudaman Singh Malik?

Vancouver Sun quoted retired RCMP deputy commissioner Gary Bass, who was responsible for the terrorism investigation after the 1985 Kanishka bombing. He was quoted as saying that after the bombing, Malik had many enemies. “I’m not privy to the ongoing investigations on Malik right now, but I can say that from years when I was that he was involved in a number of activities that might bring him into conflict with other people”, he was quoted as saying. “Too many potential motives”, Bass said, alluding to the fact that his alleged involvement in the Air India bombing could be one of the motives for him to get murdered.

While speculations are rife, Indian Defence Analysts believe that his killing could have nothing to do with his alleged involvement in the Air India bombing, rather, could be a direct result of his turn of heart that led to him praising PM Modi and vowing to work with the Indian government.

Gaurav Arya, former Army Major and Defence Analyst speaking to OpIndia said, “There is a certain sense of disappointment amongst Khalistanis that the ISI is not supporting them like it used to, earlier. That could be because of the paucity of funds and also FATF. Ripudaman Singh recently praised PM Modi. It is possible that the ISI saw this as an affront and eliminated him”.

A source in Indian intelligence said, “You have to realise that Ripudaman Malik was acquitted in the bombing, however, he did have close ties with Khalistani terrorists at the time. With his recent praise of Modi, it is entirely possible that he was disgruntled with the Khalistan project funded by ISI. For terrorists and the ISI, people like Malik are pawns who need to be silenced if they deviate from the given line. Praising Modi could have been the last nail in his coffin since it would hurt reigniting the Khalistani sentiments among Sikh youths”.

“Ripudaman was hardly a threat to India anymore. He wanted to work with the Indian government to resolve Sikh issues. He had written to PM Modi warning him of the designs of local Khalistanis and ISI, trying to discredit his stellar work. I suspect Khalistanis, who were miffed with Malik, shot him dead at the behest of ISI”, he added.

Even in the Vancouver Sun, this possibility was not discredited. It is entirely possible that once an aid of Babbar Khalsa and the Khalistan “cause” had a change of heart and wanted to work with the Indian authorities to resolve pending issues. In fact, he had also warned the PM about Khalistanis trying to discredit the work done by the Prime Minister and Indian authorities for the benefit of the Sikh community.

Given that Khalistanis and funded and instructed by ISI, Pakistan, Malik’s overtures to the Indian government and appreciation of the work being done for the Sikh community could have prompted an assassination plot, to eliminate a voice that could dent Khalistani sentiments, given that ISI is known to eliminate people who go against their established narrative, even abroad.

The 1984 Air India Kanishka bombing and how Ripudaman Singh Malik was acquitted

Malik, who founded the Khalsa Credit Union, was acquitted in the Air India case by a Canadian court in 2005. Malik, Inderjeet Singh Reyat (convicted) and Ajaib Singh Bagri were among the three main accused in the blast on board Air India Flight 182, Emperor Kanishka, a Boeing 747 aircraft that was on its way to Delhi from Montreal on June 23, 1985, killing all 329 on board. Malik and Bagri were charged with 329 counts of murder. However, they were acquitted after Reyat, who was convicted of the bombing, said that he could not remember the bombing plot or the names of those who were involved in it.

Inderjit Singh Reyat spent over 20 years in jail for his role in the deadliest mass murder in Canadian history.

Reyat was also convicted on two counts of manslaughter for his role in building a bomb that exploded at the Narita International airport, killing two baggage handlers. The luggage bomb in Air India Flight 182 exploded when it was above the Atlantic Ocean near Ireland on its way from Montreal in Canada to London. A similar fate awaited the other aircraft as well but it exploded before it could be loaded onto the plane.

The terror attack was carried out by Khalistanis in revenge for former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s decision to storm the Golden Temple in order to rid it of Bhindranwale. Apart from his role in the terrorist attack, Reyat was also accused of lying and committing perjury during the trial of Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri.

Justice Ian Josephson called Reyat an “unmitigated liar under oath” while acquitting Malik and Bagri of the bombing deaths. While he at least served some time in prison, most others, including the individual believed to be in charge of the conspiracy, died a natural death without facing the consequences for their actions.

Years after the incident, in 2010, a report on the matter blamed a “cascading series of errors” by the government, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the spy agency for failing to avert the terror attack. Former Canadian Supreme Court Justice John Major said that the blunders that were committed by security agencies were “inexcusable”.

“I stress this is a Canadian atrocity,” Major said. “For too long the greatest loss of Canadian lives at the hands of terrorists has somehow been relegated outside the Canadian consciousness.” 268 Canadian citizens died in the act of terrorism. 27 Brits and 24 Indians were also murdered in the said attack.

The report also said that Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and RCMP were in possession of pieces of information “that, taken together, would have led a competent analyst to conclude that Flight 182 was at high risk of being bombed by known Sikh terrorists in June 1985.” One of the key recommendations of the report was for the Prime Minister to clear the turf wars between the agencies.

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