BY ROBERT MATAS VANCOUVER
The Globe and Mail
24 Apr 2007
Parvkar Singh Dulai, 29, was born and raised in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey. He prays at a modest Sikh temple at the end of a strip mall of mostly small warehouses.
As a Canadian Sikh, he considers those who die fighting terrorism in Afghanistan to be not much different than historic figures within his religion who fought injustices, and more recently Talwinder Singh Parmar, who was part of a violent campaign in the 1980s for an independent Sikh state that would have been called Khalistan.
“For us, they [Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan] are martyrs,” Mr. Dulai said during a recent interview about a parade in Surrey that included a tribute to Mr. Parmar.
“Why did we go to Afghanistan?” he said. “It is because of state oppression. The Taliban were going off, killing their own citizens. Other than that, there was no need for us to be there.”
In a similar fashion, many in the Sikh community consider those who were killed in India fighting state terrorism to be martyrs. They confronted the government after its forces killed people at the Golden Temple in 1984, Mr. Dulai said. They went to protect their families and villages from state terrorism, he added.
“I know it is hard to believe for an outsider, but … basically, whoever stood up against state oppression [in India] was killed,” Mr. Dulai said.
Mr. Dulai was one of the organizers of the community’s Vaisakhi parade in Surrey, an annual event to celebrate the Punjabi new year and the beginning of the harvest in Punjab. The parade, organized by the Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar in Surrey, included two floats paying tribute to those regarded by the Sikh temple as martyrs. Photographs of Talwinder Singh Parmar and Canadian Sikhs from Toronto, Calgary and Abbotsford were among the 80 to 90 tributes on the two floats.
The Indian consulate in Vancouver has expressed concern about Canadian politicians who participated in the event, saying they were showing support for banned terrorist groups.
The RCMP continues to regard Mr. Parmar as one of the conspirators responsible for the death of 331 people, mostly Canadians, in the Air-India disaster on June 23, 1985.
“[Mr. Parmar] was very central and an integral part of the plan,” RCMP Staff Sergeant John Ward said yesterday in an interview.
Evidence in a court case in 2005 alleged that Mr. Parmar was the mastermind behind the disaster, motivated by revenge against the Indian government and support for Khalistan.
Mr. Parmar, who was born in 1944, came to Canada in 1970. He embraced fundamental Sikhism in 1977 and became a selfappointed leader of a group in a violent political and religious campaign for a Sikh homeland in 1979.
Mr. Parmar was accused of killing two policemen in November, 1981, during a visit to his home village of Panchta in the province of Punjab but he left the country before he was detained. He was arrested in 1983 in West Germany on an international warrant. German authorities subsequently let him go for lack of evidence. He had been held in custody for almost a year.
Authorities considered Mr. Parmar as a prime suspect in the Air-India bombing within moments of the explosion. Canada’s spy agency had began watching him in early 1985 at the behest of the FBI to track Sikh radicals before a visit by Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi to the United States. The spy agency had him under surveillance as he tested a homemade bomb with others in the forest three weeks before the Air-India disaster and as he met other alleged co-conspirators in the days before the disaster.
The RCMP detained Mr. Parmar on Nov. 6, 1985. But he was once against released without being charged. He was arrested a third time, in June, 1986, and charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist acts in India. He was subsequently acquitted.
Mr. Parmar fled Canada in 1988 after Inderjit Singh Reyat was arrested on charges related to the disaster. He was killed by police in India in 1992. Indian authorities cremated the body without taking fingerprints to confirm his identity and without notifying Mr. Parmar’s family or the Canadian government. Despite the unusual circumstances of his death, the Canadian government never asked India for a full investigation. The Air-India disaster remains the deadliest terrorist episode in Canadian history.