The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) has read the story "Operation Silence" by Tehelka.com with considerable interest.
If the report is correct and Talwinder Singh Parmar was arrested, interrogated for 4 days and then killed in a staged encounter, the Punjab Police and Government of India have some serious questions to answer. Why was Mr. Parmar tortured in custody during interrogation? Why was Mr. Parmar not tried in a court of law? What was being covered up by this extra-judicial killing? The Tehlka report indicates it was to shield the involvement of Indian agents in the Air India tragedy. If this is true, it is a shocking shame that must be condemned by the Government of Canada.
The Tehelka story repeats a proposition first publicly suggested by authors Zuhair Kashmeri and Brian McAndrew, two reporters for the Globe and Mail, in their book entitled Soft Target.
On June 27, 2007, following the sudden cancellation of the evidence of two unknown witnesses to the Air India Inquiry, the WSO called on Justice Major to ensure that the unidentified witnesses who were to appear at the Inquiry were protected. With these details emerging that the witnesses were members of the Punjab Human Rights Organization and a retired officer of the Punjab Police, the issue of possible harm takes a completely different meaning. Like human rights activists in the past, such as Jaswant Singh Khalra who exposed thousands of fake encounters and illegal murders in custody by the Punjab Police, these witnesses also face a genuine risk of harm or even death. Mr. Khalra, following a trip to Canada where he spoke at a Parliamentary dinner exposing the disappearances in the Punjab, himself fell victim to the brutal tactics of the Punjab Police and was kidnapped and killed.
Although stories of torture and murder by the Punjab Police and Indian authorities are not new, it is very concerning that these tactics may have been used to thwart the investiation into the worst aviation disaster in Canadian history.
The WSO is an intervenor at the Air India Inquiry and has every confidence that the Commission will fully investigate all the questions raised by the Tehelka report no matter how uncomfortable they may be and no matter who might be implicated. The Sikh community and the Air India Victims families have waited 22 years for the truth and we hope that this wait will not be extended for much longer.