Air India bomber released: A sad lesson from the past

The past can reintroduce itself sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

One such occasion presented itself earlier his week when it was announced that Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only person convicted over the 1985 Air India bombings that killed 329 people, had been released from prison and was, according to Canada’s parole service, “allowed to reintegrate into society after living in a halfway house following release a year ago”.

Some of the relatives of those murdered over 30 years ago do not need to be reintroduced to the past. They mark it still by visiting the memorial to the terrorist-attack dead at Ahakista each summer.

The 32nd anniversary of the atrocity falls on June 23 and the enduring loyalty to those lost nearly four decades ago is as inspiring as it is heartrending.

“It feels almost like coming home, we know everybody here and the entire community have been so kind and welcoming to us ever since the first day we arrived to what was then just a grassy field and is now this wonderful memorial to our loved ones,” said Babu Turlapati, who lost his sons and only children, Sanjay and Deepak, during a visit to mark the 30th anniversary.

This link was established and has been sustained because Cork Airport was the nearest air base to the crash site. The Air India 747 was flying on the Toronto–Montreal–London–Delhi route and its destruction represents the largest mass murder in Canadian history. The outrage is also the deadliest aircraft bombing.

Despite the appalling predations of our homegrown terrorists at that time, this attack exposed Ireland to terrorist mass murder for probably the first time. Little did we know that it was but a flavour of what was to follow.

Little did we know that it was just a shadow of what, to use a phrase used by the Canadian Parole Board in reference to Reyat, those of “exaggerated beliefs” would inflict on our world.

If the crime was committed today the fact that Reyat was a Sikh immigrant from India would be used by some for malign ends. That in the grand scheme of things it changed nothing reminds us of the pointlessness of terrorist violence.

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