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Explained: Why is Canada 'Probing' India's Role in Ripudaman Malik's Murder?

A report stated that Malik was in contact with an Indian diplomat in the hours leading up to his death in 2022.

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Canada is said to be probing the Indian government's alleged involvement in another high-profile murder case – besides the ongoing investigation into the assassination plot against Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

The said case pertains to the murder of businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik, one of the people accused and later acquitted in connection with the Air India bombing of 1985 that killed 329 people on board. Singh was gunned down outside his office in Canada's Surrey on 14 July 2022. Two British Columbia-based gangsters, Tanner Fox and Jose Lopez, were charged with his murder.

According to CBC News, the Canadian authorities are not only investigating India's involvement into Malik's killing, but also probing a possible link between his murder and the assassination plot against Nijjar, who was shot to death in Surrey in June 2023.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), however, told The Quint they "do not confirm the possible involvement of any person, business or entity in any investigation until such time as charges have been laid."

The CBC report also said that authorities had issued a warning to Ripudaman Singh Malik's son Hardeep Malik of a potential threat to his life.

However, the RCMP did not confirm this development.

"To ensure the safety and privacy of those who may be subject to threats, as well as to ensure the integrity of our operations, the RCMP does not confirm whether any individual may be subject to a duty to warn," they told The Quint, adding, "As with any offence, police will investigate to gather all available evidence in support of a potential prosecution."

While the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has consistently denied allegations made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in September last year that the Indian government played a role in carrying out Nijjar's assassination, they haven't yet reacted to the latest allegations regarding Malik's murder. Mails sent by The Quint to the MEA have also gone unanswered so far.

Who was Ripudaman Singh Malik? What kind of theories have been floated surrounding his death? And what does the CBC News report allege? We explain.

Explained: Why is Canada 'Probing' India's Role in Ripudaman Malik's Murder?

  1. 1. Who Was Ripudaman Singh Malik? 

    Ripudaman Singh Malik was accused of being involved in the bombing of the Air India 182 Kanishka flight in 1985 – which is said to have been the biggest air-borne terror attack before 9/11. 

    Malik and co-accused Ajaib Singh Bagri were, however, acquitted by a Canadian court in 2005 while another accused, Inderjit Singh Reyat, was convicted of manslaughter.

    Malik is said to have been born before Partition in 1947 in Lahore. His family moved to Ferozepur in East Punjab.

    He left for Canada in 1972 and made a living by driving a taxi and doing odd jobs. He later opened a clothing store named Papillon in Vancouver. In 1986, he founded the Khalsa Credit Union and Khalsa Schools and emerged as an important Sikh community figure in British Columbia.

    He was accused of being close to Talwinder Singh Parmar, leader of one of the factions of Babbar Khalsa and the alleged mastermind of the Air India bombing.

    The Indian government is said to have put Malik on a blacklist because of which he couldn't visit India. He finally visited Punjab in 2019 after his name is said to have been removed from the blacklist. More on that later.

    The investigation into the 1985 bombing lasted 15 years. Malik was arrested in October 2000 and had to spend a little over four years in jail until his acquittal in 2005.

    Former Canada minister of Punjabi origin, Ujjal Dosanjh, was a close acquaintance of Ripudaman Malik.

    “He was a ganja-smoking hippie who had a ponytail and then he turned into an extremist warrior. It’s hard to explain... Something happened to him,” Dosanjh told the Vancouver Sun in a 2022 interview.

    Former Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP and in-charge of the Air India bombing probe Gary Bass, however, had a different take and said that Malik was different from what he presented in public.

    Commenting on the interview he saw of Malik to the Air India probe officials, Bass told the Vancouver Sun:

    "I watched that interview. And he was a different person than he portrays in public for sure. He was cocky. He took his turban off, and he had his feet up on the desk, and really playing games... And coming very close to confessing and then kind of backing away… not the pious religious guy that he’d like everyone to think for sure."

    In media interviews, his relatives in Ferozepur said that he was deeply hurt by storming of the Harmandir Sahib complex in Operation Blue Star 1984. However, they add that it was not in the way that would make him commit an act of terror.

    Expand
  2. 2. Reconciliation With India

    In 2019 the Indian government was in the process of rethinking its policy of blacklisting Sikh emigres. The government began offering Sikh separatists a proposal: that their past deeds would be forgiven if they wrote a letter renouncing their separatist agenda.

    Many former Sikh extremists, purportedly including Malik, opted for the proposal, which is said to have been moved along by Research and Analysis (RAW) chief Samant Kumar Goel, CBC News reported.

    In fact, after having buried the hatchet with India, Malik made a trip to his village in Punjab's Ferozepur in 2019.

    When asked how the trip was made possible, Malik's brother Harjit said in an interview with local channel Chardikala Time TV that it was all due to the efforts of Goel.

    "Mr. Goel, the RAW chief, showed the guts to make this happen," he said.

    Coincidentally, a recent report by The Washington Post named Goel as the person who approved an assassination bid on Sikhs for Justice chief Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in New York in June last year.

    Ahead of the 2022 Punjab Assembly elections, Malik had also written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi praising him for "taking steps" to address Sikh demands.

    “I am writing you this to express my deep heartfelt gratitude for the unprecedented positive steps taken by yourself to redress long-pending Sikh demands and grievances including the elimination of blacklists that restricted visit to India of thousands of Sikhs living abroad," he wrote.

    In the letter, he also accused elements within the Sikh community of carrying out an "orchestrated campaign" against Modi.

    Malik's apparently successful attempts to reconcile with India tend to cast aspersions on allegations that the Centre had a role in his murder in 2022. Further, no evidence has been found to prove that Malik's killers Fox and Lopex had any personal connections with India.

    Expand
  3. 3. Evidence of 'Close Contact' Between Malik & Indian Diplomat

    The CBC News report stated that the RCMP had evidence to suggest that Malik was in "close contact" with an Indian diplomat named Amar Jit Singh from the Indian consulate in Vancouver.

    Purported WhatsApp chats and call logs indicate that Amar Jit was in touch with Malik throughout 13 July 2022 and the early hours of 14 July – the day he was killed.

    Call logs accessed by CBC News showed that Malik received three WhatsApp calls from a number saved as "Amarjeet Singh, Consulate" on the evening of 13 July.

    Further, a WhatsApp message to Malik on that day from the same number showed a picture of a Canadian passport – held open to highlight a multiple-entry visa to India in his name. Malik purportedly responded to the picture by saying "thanks" with a folded hands emoji.

    On that evening itself, the same number sent Malik a WhatsApp message with a British Columbia-based phone number and a name. At 4:53 AM (local time) the next day, Malik thanked him. Twenty-two minutes later the number responded by saying, "I have told him."

    Four-and-a-half hours later, Malik was shot dead outside his office.

    According to Malik's day planner, which CBC News accessed, Malik had circled the hours 1000 and 1030, with "lunch" and "Amar Jit" written beside it.

    Security officials are now attempting to decipher whether the correspondence with the purported Indian diplomat and the planned events of 14 July had anything to do with Malik's murder, the report stated.

    Expand
  4. 4. Allegations of Internecine Warfare Among Sikh Extremists

    Amid Malik's growing closeness towards India and his alienation from the separatist cause, another theory that has been floated is that the businessman was killed amid "internecine feuds" between current and former Sikh extremists.

    The CBC News report quoted some Sikh community members as saying that Hardeep Singh Nijjar was among Malik's harshest critics and may have orchestrated the killing himself.

    "Nijjar was part of a younger generation of Khalistanis who had no intention of reconciling with India. Some members of this cohort regarded Singh Malik as a traitor to the community," one of them said.

    The news report added that these developments support the suspicions that the Indian government's alleged covert assassinations in Canada did not begin with Nijjar's murder in 2023 – a claim repeatedly denied by the Narendra Modi government.

    Tensions with Malik further came to a head when he was accused of committing sacrilege by allegedly disrespecting the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

    Malik and the Satnam Education Trust run by him began printing copies of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib in violation of a Hukunama (Edict) of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal body of Sikhs.

    Only the Akal Takht had the right to give any organisation authority to print the Guru Granth Sahib and it had given this right only to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.

    In 2020, Harjinder Singh Dhami, the then SGPC president, had accused Malik's Satnam Trust of misleading the Sikh community and violating the Akal Takht's order.

    After his letter to PM Modi went public, a report by News18 claimed that Malik was labelled 'Kaum Da Gaddar' (traitor of the Sikh community) for praising Modi.

    (With inputs from Aditya Menon.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Who Was Ripudaman Singh Malik? 

Ripudaman Singh Malik was accused of being involved in the bombing of the Air India 182 Kanishka flight in 1985 – which is said to have been the biggest air-borne terror attack before 9/11. 

Malik and co-accused Ajaib Singh Bagri were, however, acquitted by a Canadian court in 2005 while another accused, Inderjit Singh Reyat, was convicted of manslaughter.

Malik is said to have been born before Partition in 1947 in Lahore. His family moved to Ferozepur in East Punjab.

He left for Canada in 1972 and made a living by driving a taxi and doing odd jobs. He later opened a clothing store named Papillon in Vancouver. In 1986, he founded the Khalsa Credit Union and Khalsa Schools and emerged as an important Sikh community figure in British Columbia.

He was accused of being close to Talwinder Singh Parmar, leader of one of the factions of Babbar Khalsa and the alleged mastermind of the Air India bombing.

The Indian government is said to have put Malik on a blacklist because of which he couldn't visit India. He finally visited Punjab in 2019 after his name is said to have been removed from the blacklist. More on that later.

The investigation into the 1985 bombing lasted 15 years. Malik was arrested in October 2000 and had to spend a little over four years in jail until his acquittal in 2005.

Former Canada minister of Punjabi origin, Ujjal Dosanjh, was a close acquaintance of Ripudaman Malik.

“He was a ganja-smoking hippie who had a ponytail and then he turned into an extremist warrior. It’s hard to explain... Something happened to him,” Dosanjh told the Vancouver Sun in a 2022 interview.

Former Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP and in-charge of the Air India bombing probe Gary Bass, however, had a different take and said that Malik was different from what he presented in public.

Commenting on the interview he saw of Malik to the Air India probe officials, Bass told the Vancouver Sun:

"I watched that interview. And he was a different person than he portrays in public for sure. He was cocky. He took his turban off, and he had his feet up on the desk, and really playing games... And coming very close to confessing and then kind of backing away… not the pious religious guy that he’d like everyone to think for sure."

In media interviews, his relatives in Ferozepur said that he was deeply hurt by storming of the Harmandir Sahib complex in Operation Blue Star 1984. However, they add that it was not in the way that would make him commit an act of terror.

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Reconciliation With India

In 2019 the Indian government was in the process of rethinking its policy of blacklisting Sikh emigres. The government began offering Sikh separatists a proposal: that their past deeds would be forgiven if they wrote a letter renouncing their separatist agenda.

Many former Sikh extremists, purportedly including Malik, opted for the proposal, which is said to have been moved along by Research and Analysis (RAW) chief Samant Kumar Goel, CBC News reported.

In fact, after having buried the hatchet with India, Malik made a trip to his village in Punjab's Ferozepur in 2019.

When asked how the trip was made possible, Malik's brother Harjit said in an interview with local channel Chardikala Time TV that it was all due to the efforts of Goel.

"Mr. Goel, the RAW chief, showed the guts to make this happen," he said.

Coincidentally, a recent report by The Washington Post named Goel as the person who approved an assassination bid on Sikhs for Justice chief Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in New York in June last year.

Ahead of the 2022 Punjab Assembly elections, Malik had also written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi praising him for "taking steps" to address Sikh demands.

“I am writing you this to express my deep heartfelt gratitude for the unprecedented positive steps taken by yourself to redress long-pending Sikh demands and grievances including the elimination of blacklists that restricted visit to India of thousands of Sikhs living abroad," he wrote.

In the letter, he also accused elements within the Sikh community of carrying out an "orchestrated campaign" against Modi.

Malik's apparently successful attempts to reconcile with India tend to cast aspersions on allegations that the Centre had a role in his murder in 2022. Further, no evidence has been found to prove that Malik's killers Fox and Lopex had any personal connections with India.

0

Evidence of 'Close Contact' Between Malik & Indian Diplomat

The CBC News report stated that the RCMP had evidence to suggest that Malik was in "close contact" with an Indian diplomat named Amar Jit Singh from the Indian consulate in Vancouver.

Purported WhatsApp chats and call logs indicate that Amar Jit was in touch with Malik throughout 13 July 2022 and the early hours of 14 July – the day he was killed.

Call logs accessed by CBC News showed that Malik received three WhatsApp calls from a number saved as "Amarjeet Singh, Consulate" on the evening of 13 July.

Further, a WhatsApp message to Malik on that day from the same number showed a picture of a Canadian passport – held open to highlight a multiple-entry visa to India in his name. Malik purportedly responded to the picture by saying "thanks" with a folded hands emoji.

On that evening itself, the same number sent Malik a WhatsApp message with a British Columbia-based phone number and a name. At 4:53 AM (local time) the next day, Malik thanked him. Twenty-two minutes later the number responded by saying, "I have told him."

Four-and-a-half hours later, Malik was shot dead outside his office.

According to Malik's day planner, which CBC News accessed, Malik had circled the hours 1000 and 1030, with "lunch" and "Amar Jit" written beside it.

Security officials are now attempting to decipher whether the correspondence with the purported Indian diplomat and the planned events of 14 July had anything to do with Malik's murder, the report stated.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Allegations of Internecine Warfare Among Sikh Extremists

Amid Malik's growing closeness towards India and his alienation from the separatist cause, another theory that has been floated is that the businessman was killed amid "internecine feuds" between current and former Sikh extremists.

The CBC News report quoted some Sikh community members as saying that Hardeep Singh Nijjar was among Malik's harshest critics and may have orchestrated the killing himself.

"Nijjar was part of a younger generation of Khalistanis who had no intention of reconciling with India. Some members of this cohort regarded Singh Malik as a traitor to the community," one of them said.

The news report added that these developments support the suspicions that the Indian government's alleged covert assassinations in Canada did not begin with Nijjar's murder in 2023 – a claim repeatedly denied by the Narendra Modi government.

Tensions with Malik further came to a head when he was accused of committing sacrilege by allegedly disrespecting the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

Malik and the Satnam Education Trust run by him began printing copies of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib in violation of a Hukunama (Edict) of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal body of Sikhs.

Only the Akal Takht had the right to give any organisation authority to print the Guru Granth Sahib and it had given this right only to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.

In 2020, Harjinder Singh Dhami, the then SGPC president, had accused Malik's Satnam Trust of misleading the Sikh community and violating the Akal Takht's order.

After his letter to PM Modi went public, a report by News18 claimed that Malik was labelled 'Kaum Da Gaddar' (traitor of the Sikh community) for praising Modi.

(With inputs from Aditya Menon.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Canada   Ripudaman Singh Malik   Khalistan 

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