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Bagri Called for the Death of 50,000 Hindus


The Globe and Mail, Dec. 3, 2003

Air-India suspect Ajaib Singh Bagri stared blankly at the video screen as he listened in court Wednesday to a bombastic, bloodthirsty speech he delivered almost 20 years ago calling for the death of 50,000 Hindus and support for terrorist airplane hijackers. As a crowd of 4,000 people shouted religious and hate-filled slogans, a younger Mr. Bagri on July 28, 1984, called for 'the entire Sikh world' to give someone from every home to fight and die in the battle for the creation of Khalistan, an independent country that some Sikhs hoped to carve out of India. 'Those dogs have put a machine gun to the head of each person. More than 50,000 [Sikh] youth have been martyred. When will we make up that 50,000?' he said.

Mr. Bagri also said that those who are unable to go to the battlefield should work double shifts and donate the extra salary to the Sikh community. He urged the crowd to arrange marriages with children of those who are killed in the battlefield and help them to leave India. If the children are too young to be married, Sikhs should accept responsibility for looking after the families. The hour-long speech was delivered at Madison Square Gardens in New York City, weeks after the Indian government sent troops into several Sikh temples, including the Golden Temple in Amritsar, which is the Sikhs' holiest shrine. Thousands of Sikhs were killed by Indian government forces.

Mr. Bagri, dressed in traditional Sikh outfit, was standing in front of a circle of men in white, brandishing the traditional lengthy swords of Sikh warriors. Prosecutor Richard Cairns showed a video of the speech in court to illustrate Mr. Bagri's alleged motive almost a year later for participating in a scheme to place bombs on Air-India aircraft. The prosecution says Mr. Bagri and another B.C. man, Ripudaman Singh Malik, are responsible for the death of 331 people killed in two explosions on June 23, 1985. Mr. Bagri was one of several speakers at the five-hour rally. His speech, filled with references to historic battles of the Sikh nation and religious confrontations, was interrupted frequently with chants from the crowd. Mr. Bagri said anyone who calls Hindus as brothers will be considered a traitor. The crowd responded with: 'Indira bitch,' referring to India's prime minister Indira Gandhi, 'death to her' and 'Hindu traitors.'

More than 50,000 Sikh youth were martyred in Punjab province, he said. 'I tell you one thing, they have amused themselves, these Hindu dogs. Now it is our turn. . . . until we kill 50,000 Hindus, we will not rest.' Mr. Bagri defended those who hijacked aircraft to force the Indian government to negotiate with the Sikh leadership and he criticized those in the Sikh community who distance themselves from the hijackers. 'This has to be said straightforwardly and openly, that they [the hijackers] are the Sikhs of the Guru, they are sacrificing their lives for the community,' he said. 'They are ours.' Mr. Bagri was critical of the Gandhian strategy of protest and non-violence. 'We are to die in the battlefield, fighting, by sacrificing ourselves. To die such a death, which is the mission of the Khalsa, which is our religion,' he said. The trial continues.