"Only one person - Inderjit Singh Reyat - has been jailed for what is known as the second worst aviation disaster after 9/11."
By Gurmukh Singh

Toronto, July 11 - Air India Kanishka victims' families have rejected the Canadian government's offer of $24,000 each for the 1985 bombing that killed all 329 people on board the plane near the Irish coast.

The Kanishka flight 182 to Delhi from Montreal was blown off mid-air by a bomb planted by Vancouver-based Khalistani radicals to avenge the Indian army action at the Golden Temple in June 1984.

The Canadian government announced the $24,000 ex-gratia during a meeting with families - as recommended by the Air India inquiry commission, headed by former Canadian chief justice John Major, which submitted its report last year.

A government spokesman said since most victims' families were compensated in the early 1990s, the $24,000 ex-gratia is just 'a demonstration of solicitude and recognition for the administrative disdain families experienced over the years following the tragedy'.

But the offer - which amounts to $7.9 million in total - enraged victim families who called it insulting to the memory of their loved ones.

'Once more we are treated with disdain. It seems that Indian life is cheap in the eyes of Canadian politicians. This is so degrading,' Melbourne-based Anil Singh Hanse, whose father Narendra Singh Hanse was the pilot of the ill-fated plane, told IANS.

He said the victims' families will 'pursue this - in an international court as Canada is biased. This is xenophobia at its worst. Canada's politicians need to wake up and stop being in denial'.

Hanse denied his family receiving any compensation from Canada. 'Let me be clear that we received not even 10 cents from Canada for the gross negligence which saw 329 innocents blown up. The spokesman is making misleading statements by saying most were settled.'

Amarjit Bhinder, whose husband Satinder Bhinder was the co-pilot of the flight, said the ex-gratia payment is 'an extreme insult to our loved ones. Canada killed, rather murdered, our 329 loved ones with its negligence. We will fight as long as it takes us to get justice...we will explore the possibility of approaching the human rights commission - and whatever other options are available to us'.

Bhinder said, 'Had Canada allowed my husband to live an average life, he would have flown the planes till November 2008 and earned 24,000 Canadian dollars in less than 45 days. I cannot allow anyone to insult my husband.'

Toronto-based Shipra Rana, whose sister Shyla Juju was the Kanishka flight attendant, said, 'Please do not dishonour the memory of our loved ones. It is better not to offer anything than an offer of 900 dollars per year for being treated as offenders instead of victims.'

She said since the overseas victims' families were not compensated in the 1990s, Canada should hold meaningful consultations with them for proper compensation.

Only one person - Inderjit Singh Reyat - has been jailed for what is known as the second worst aviation disaster after 9/11.

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