Kanishka victims remembered


Prime VIP
Dublin/London, June 23

Ministers from India, Canada and Ireland today led mourners to observe a minute’s silence at an Irish memorial garden to remember the 329 people who were killed when a terrorist bomb destroyed an Air India trans Atlantic jet 25 years ago.

Minister for Corporate and Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid, Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin and the Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney joined the relatives of the dead at the annual service held at the remote Sheep’s Head peninsula on Ireland’s west Cork coast over which the plane exploded, the Irish Times reported.

The ill-fated Montreal-New Delhi Air India Kanishka flight via Toronto and London exploded mid-air 45 minutes before it was to land at London’s Heathrow Airport, killing all 329 persons on board, most of whom were Canadians of Indian descent.

“The tragedy has forged an unbreakable bond between the people of three continents,” the Irish Foreign Minister Martin said as the gathering fell into silence at 8.13 am, the exact moment when a bomb hidden in the luggage hold of the plane exploded and the Air India flight 182 disappeared from radar blips.

The bombing attack was blamed on Sikh militants avenging Operation Bluestar of 1984.

Terming the bombing as “evil and cowardly”, the Irish minister said the memorial site at Ahakista was a sacred place that represented a “rejection of the hatred and violence of terrorism”.

The memorial includes a sundial with its shadow designs to touch a precise spot every June 23 at 8.13 am, the time the plane disappeared forever. “Time flies, suns rise, shadows fall, let it pass by, love reigns forever overall,” reads the inscription on the sundial.

Only 131 bodies could be recovered, a third of them under the age of 17. “Each year, Ireland and the community here in Ahakista gladly open their arms to welcome the families and friends of the victims after their long journey to this hallowed ground, close to where so many perished,” he said.

“We are honoured by your friendship and offer whatever comfort and solace we can in your time of great sorrow. You will always be welcome here,” said Martin.

The alleged bomb maker was convicted of manslaughter in 1991 and received a 10-year sentence but two others were acquitted in 2005 due to lack of evidence.

This year’s memorial came in the backdrop of a Canadian probe led by former Chief Justice John Major, which rapped the Canadian police and the intelligence for failing to check the terrorist strike.

Justice Major also said the families of victims should be adequately compensated.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to apologise to the families of the victims at a ceremony in Toronto.

PM pays homage

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today paid homage to 1985 Kanishka bombing victims who lost their lives in the air tragedy 25 years ago on the same day.

“This year marks the 25th anniversary of the crash of Air India Flight 182 that led to the loss of 329 lives. This was a horrific incident which shook the world's conscience. It is with a sense of deep pain and sorrow that I join the families and friends in paying my homage to all those who fell victim to this most barbarous act of terrorism,” he said.