HarperCollins India, one of the country’s leading publishing houses, will release the book about the Kanishka Bombings on July 05, 2021. Blood for Blood, written by veteran Canadian journalist Terry Milewski, is up for pre-order on Amazon India. On the eve of the 26th anniversary of the terror attack, HarperCollins interviewed the author, discussing the Khalistan separatist movement and the reasons behind the bombings.
On June 23, 1985, Khalistan separatists targeted the Air India Flight 182 operating on the Montreal-London-Delhi route. The bomb exploded and disintegrated the aeroplane when it left from Montreal to London, at a height of 31,000ft, killing all of the 307 passengers and 22 crew members aboard. A terrorist organization by the name of Babbar Khalsa, led by Khalistan separatists like Talwinder Singh Parmar, Ajaib Singh Bagri, and Inderjit Singh Reyat, was the main culprit behind the attack.
Speaking about the Khalistan separatist movement, Terry said that while covering the Kanishka Bombings in 1985 on his official visit to Ireland, he realized that the Khalistan struggle was not a story to be filed and forgotten. He said the Canadian authorities failed to prevent the bombings, even though they had the masterminds of the attack on surveillance months before the incident. The attacks were seen as the retaliation of the anti-Sikh riots and Operation Blue Star, carried out in 1984.
The year 1984 was one of the darkest years of independent India. It saw the Indian military enter the Golden Temple in Amritsar against the armed militants led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and the consequent anti-Sikh riots. The scars of the oppression continue to motivate a large number of Sikh diaspora living in the west to keep the struggle for Khalistan alive, even though the Sikhs back home have long relinquished it.
Is the Khalistan Movement Alive?
When asked whether the movement has sustained abroad unlike India, he said that many of the separatist leaders were never content living in the UK, US, or Canada. He further added,
“Rather, they saw their new citizenship as a platform from which to battle for a state of their own – and for revenge against India for the horrors of 1984. The more they were banned from India, the less they knew of what life is like for Sikhs who actually live there, in a majority-Sikh state where the independence struggle is a bad memory. For the diaspora militants, it still evokes the glory days of a just and even holy war. But it’s not enough to say they’re living in the past. Rather, they remain wedded to an imaginary future.”
While the Khalistan movement remains alive in the West, it is upon India’s allies like the US and Canada to ensure that the extremist leaders are neutralized to prevent any future incidents like the Kanishka Bombings. On this issue of the role of foreign governments to curb Khalistanis, Terry says,
“They can, and they should, but they won’t. First, they know the cause has fizzled out in India, so that Indian officials, however annoyed they are about western politicians pandering to separatists, won’t do much about it. Second, that pandering is for domestic consumption, and it works. The separatist activists maximize their political leverage by helping compliant politicians at election time. Sure, it’s embarrassing that the separatists make heroes out of mass-murderers like the Air India bombers – but if they bring in thousands of votes, the candidates don’t seem to pay a price for looking the other way.”
Noman Shaikh is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Bombay Reads. He grew up in Mumbai, a city he loves more than any other, and currently works as a content consultant. His expertise lies in creating high-quality academic and marketing content in the form of blogs, articles, op-eds, etc. Noman has worked with reputed brands, including Economic Times (through Spiral Media), Coinbase (through MattsenKumar), AdEngage, Della Group, GBIM Technologies, VAP Group, etc. For his published portfolio, click here. Contact Noman on noman@bombayreads for engagement.