Legendary Indo-Canadian Journalist Who Wrote The Truth Behind Air India Bombing Passes Away

The legendary Indo-Canadian journalist who wrote about the truth behind the Air India bombing that it was the work of rogue Indian agents who infiltrated the Sikh militancy movement in Canada and financed the amateur bombing operations that took down Air India flight and another in Japan that killed two baggage handlers. Four years after the Air India tragedies, Kashmeri and fellow journalist Brian McAndrew explored the Air India bombing further in their groundbreaking book, Soft Target: How the Indian Intelligence Service Penetrated Canada, which claimed that Indian spies had for years been engaged in a “devious and ruthless” operation to manipulate and destabilize Canada’s Sikh population.

TORONTO – The legendary Indo-Canadian journalist who wrote about the truth behind the Air India bombing that it was the work of rogue Indian agents who infiltrated the Sikh militancy movement in Canada and financed the amateur bombing operations that took down Air India flight and another in Japan that killed two baggage handlers.

In a long tribute to Zuhair Kashmeri by the Globe and Mail newspaper, for whom he worked for many years, they wrote that Kashmiri described himself a “writer, editor, broadcaster, and dreamer.”

Widely known simply as “Kash,” he was a tenacious, resourceful journalist who scored a rare interview with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, enraged Indian officials with allegations of interference in Canada’s internal affairs and once sparked a street protest with his reporting. Canadian authorities did not escape his scrutiny either, the Globe wrote.

Kashmeri covered crime, business and financial miscreance, the Middle East, his native India and the challenges Sikhs, Muslims and visible minorities face in this country for the Globe during a 15 year career with the paper.

Kashmeri also wrote extensively about the 1985 Air India bombing. On June 23 of that year, Air India flight 182 exploded over the southwest tip of Ireland, killing all 329 people aboard, including 268 Canadian citizens. A related bombing at Tokyo’s Narita airport at the same time killed two baggage handlers. Sikh extremists were suspected of carrying out the attacks.

His coverage of the bombing included suggestions that the Indian government was running an intelligence operation in Canada aimed at dividing the Sikh community. This obviously upset agents of the Indian government who tried to suppress his writing and coverage.

Four years after the Air India tragedies, Kashmeri and fellow journalist Brian McAndrew explored the Air India bombing further in their groundbreaking book, Soft Target: How the Indian Intelligence Service Penetrated Canada, which claimed that Indian spies had for years been engaged in a “devious and ruthless” operation to manipulate and destabilize Canada’s Sikh population.

While India’s High Commission in Ottawa hued and cried about the book that really exposed the truth behind the bombings, then-external affairs minister Joe Clark would neither confirm nor deny the book’s allegation that three Indian diplomats had been expelled from Canada after they were caught spying, which only added to the weight of Kashmiri’s writings which exposed the fact that there was more behind the bombings than just the Sikh militancy propaganda.

Robert Matas, Kashmeri’s colleague at The Globe in 1980s, recalled a strong reporter who often filed exclusives, but encountered editors who were skeptical about his Air India stories, especially those about conspiracies involving the government of India. Although suggestions of Indian government involvement were never substantiated, much in his book about the infiltration of Canada’s Sikh community by Indian agents subsequently became accepted wisdom, Matas said.

Kashmeri’s work also triggered threats to his life. He and his family were placed under police protection for a time. He was harassed by callers, refused a visa to visit India and bluntly told that if he did go, he would not return alive. Indian secret service agents even interrogated Kashmeri’s aging and ailing parents in Bombay. Was the exercise worth it? “We both feel it was,” the authors wrote.

The volume’s second edition, in 2005, was subtitled The Real Story Behind the Air India Disaster, and detailed a botched investigation into the bombings by the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Only a public inquiry would offer closure to the families of the victims, the authors argued presciently.

A year later, former Supreme Court justice John Major was appointed to conduct a commission of inquiry. His report, released in 2010, concluded that a “cascading series of errors” by the government of Canada, the RCMP and CSIS failed to prevent the attacks. Major had earlier rejected a request by the World Sikh Organization to call Kashmeri as a witness as well as others who would provide evidence to the Indian government angle which makes Major’s report only half the real story, which of course was told by Kashmiri in his brave writings.

Zuhair “Kash” Kashmiri passed away suddenly on December 21, 2018 at the age of 72.

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