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Who Killed Ripudaman Singh Malik – A Man With 'Many Enemies' and a Complex Past?

Given businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik's complex story, there could be many possible motives behind his killing.

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South Asians
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Edited By :Tejas Harad

Canada-based Sikh businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik was shot dead in Surrey in Canada's British Columbia province at 9.30 am local time on Thursday. The incident took place near the Payal Business Centre in Surrey where Malik had a business office. He was 75 and is survived by his wife, five children, and eight grandchildren.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are still unsure about the motive behind the killing.

In a statement released to the media on Thursday, the homicide investigators said:

"We are aware of Mr. Malik’s background, though at this time we are still working to determine the motive. We can confirm that the shooting appears to be targeted and there is not believed to be any further risk to the public.”

A car, supposedly used by the killers, was found set on fire a few kilometres away from the crime scene, a method associated with contract murders and gang-related killings.

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On Friday, the homicide investigators held a press briefing in which they said that they had secured CCTV footage which showed a white Honda CRV may have been the vehicle used by the shooters. The police said that they vehicle could be seen a few blocks away from the crime scene around 7 AM after which they waited for Malik to arrive.

At least one media outlet in India has already attributed a motive to the killing. More on that later.

The police's dilemma regarding the possible motive behind Malik's killing stems from his own complex background and the fact that he may have had several enemies and, more importantly, several different kinds of enemies.

Who Was Ripudaman Singh Malik?

No doubt, the first reference that comes up is the fact that he was accused of being involved in the bombing of the Air India 182 Kanishka in 1985 that killed 329 passengers and crew. It is said to have been the biggest air-borne terror attack before 9/11. However, Malik and co-accused Ajaib Singh Bagri were acquitted by a Canadian court in 2005 while Inderjit Singh Reyat was convicted of manslaughter. He was released in 2016.

However, besides the Kanishka case, there is a back story and aftermath that are important to understand Ripudaman Singh Malik.

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

He came to Canada in 1972 and began by driving a taxi and doing odd jobs. Then he started 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 him on a blacklist because of which he couldn't visit India. He finally visited India in 2019 after his name is said to have been removed from the blacklist.

Given businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik's complex story, there could be many possible motives behind his killing.

Ripudaman Malik with Paramjit Sarna of DSGMC

(Photo Courtesy: Paramjit Sarna Facebook Page)

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

In an interview to a Punjabi online channel Chardikala Time TV, Malik's brother Harjit Singh Malik had thanked Research and Analysis Wing chief Samant Kumar Goel for making his visit to India possible.

"Mr Goel, the RAW chief, showed the guts to make this happen. I had even met him in Delhi and enjoyed myself while meeting him," Harjit Malik said in the interview.

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Praise for Narendra Modi

On the eve of the 2022 Punjab elections, Malik had 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.

A report on News18 claims that Malik was labelled 'Kaum Da Gaddar' (traitor of the Sikh community) for praising Modi.

The report also alleges that Malik could have been killed by "Pakistan-supported Khalistan terrorists" as he was supposedly about to "expose them in an interview on 20 July."

The Canadian police, however, have said that there isn't sufficient evidence to establish the motive behind the killing.

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Allegations of Disrespecting Guru Granth Sahib

Another major controversy that Malik got embroiled in was allegations of committing sacrilege by 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.

This wasn't the first time Malik's Satnam Trust was accused of disrespecting the Guru Granth Sahib. In 2014, over 400 sacred Sarops (physical copies) of the Guru Granth Sahib shipped by the SGPC to the Satnam Trust, were being stored in a damaged bus at Vancouver port.

At that time a panel formed by six prominent gurdwaras in British Columbia accused Malik of violating Panthic Maryada. The SGPC had to depute a team to Canada as a result of the row.

In 2007, Sarops sent by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee to Satnam Trust were found in a similar condition and the then DSGMC chairman Paramjit Sarna had to tender an apology.

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A Complex Life With Many Gaps in the Story

What comes across in all this is a very complex life trajectory of Ripudaman Malik.

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.

Given businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik's complex story, there could be many possible motives behind his killing.

Ujjal Dosanjh was a close acquaintance of Malik.

(Photo Courtesy: Ujjal Dosanjh Facebook Page)

Former Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP and in-charge of the Air India bombing probe Gary Bass, however, has 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," Bass said.

The years 1984-86 are crucial in understanding Malik.

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.

In 1985, the Air India bombing took place.

The year following the Air India bombing – 1986 – was a crucial one for Ripudaman Malik as that was the year he set up both the Khalsa credit fund and Khalsa schools.

In the period between 1986 and his arrest in 2000, he did visit Punjab and had a few contacts even among mainstream politicians in Punjab.

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Many Enemies, Many Possible Motives

Speaking to the Vancouver Sun, former Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP and in-charge of the Air India bombing probe Gary Bass said that Malik may have had many enemies.

“I’m not privy to the ongoing investigations on Malik right now, but I can say that from years when I was that he was involved in a number of activities that might bring him into conflict with other people," he said, adding that it would be speculative to suggest who might be behind the shooting.

Bass told Vancouver Sun that there could be "many potential motives" behind Malik's murder.

On one hand, News18 has claimed that this was the handiwork of Pakistan-backed Khalistani militants, on the other hand there are a few pro-Khalistan handles on social media terming it a "false flag" to "demonise Canadian Sikhs."

In a statement, Malik's son said that the family "hoped that the killing isn't linked to the 1985 bombing".

Then there are the sacrilege allegations as well as personal rivalries Malik is reported to have had.

(With inputs from the Vancouver Sun.)

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Edited By :Tejas Harad
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