The Legacy of Terrorism: The 1985 Air India Bombing and Its Victims

Online - a link will be sent to you before the event
Wednesday 22 March 2023 (16:00-18:00)

The Air India Memorial in Toronto
  • Main Speaker: Susheel Gupta, Air India Flight 182 Victims’ Families Association 
  • Respondent: Dr Katharina Karcher, Department of Modern Languages, University of Birmingham
  • Chair: Dr Steve Hewitt, Department of History and the Centre for the Study of North America, University of Birmingham

On 23 June 1985, 329 people lost their lives when Air India Flight 182, flying from Canada to India via London, exploded off the coast of Ireland.  It soon emerged that the Boeing 747 had been brought down by a terrorist bomb. A second device exploded at Tokyo’s Narita Airport killing two baggage handlers. The explosives had been planted by Sikh nationalists seeking an independent state and in retaliation for atrocities against Sikhs that occurred in India the year before. After a botched police investigation, which would spark an official inquiry, only one person was convicted in relation to the attack in what represents the largest mass murder in Canadian history. 

Air India Flight 182 was also one of the worst acts of non-state terrorism before 9/11. In relation to the history of terrorism, it is less well remembered compared to other acts of mass violence. It is not forgotten, however, by the families of the victims. Susheel Gupta representing the Air India 182 Victims’ Families Association will speak in personal terms about the attack and its impact. As a 12-year-old, he lost his mother in the bombing. Dr. Katharina Karcher, Principal Investigator of a major research project (UrbTerr) related to terrorism and remembrance, will respond.

Susheel Gupta of the Air India Flight 182 Victims’ Families AssociationSusheel Gupta

After eight years as the Vice-Chairperson of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Susheel Gupta joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in a newly created role as Senior Strategic Advisor for National Security. Previously he worked with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, Department of Justice War Crimes Section, and in a judicial role at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. 

A significant portion of his career has been spent as a Federal Prosecutor, and specifically as the Computer Crime Advisor for the prosecution unit in Ottawa, assisting on prosecutions and investigations with Federal and Provincial prosecution agencies and government departments. He was one of the co-counsels in Canada's first prosecution under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

On a more personal note, Susheel was 12 years old when his 37 year old mother was murdered on board Air India Flight 182 in Canada’s largest terrorism mass murder.  Susheel volunteers extensively with organizations involved in supporting and advocating for victims of crime in Canada and internationally resulting in awards from the University of Waterloo in 2018, and the Ontario Bar Association President's Award for significant contribution of to the rights of victims of crime in 2016.  

Susheel brings a unique and diverse background on issues that are relevant to all of us and offers many perspectives. 

katharina-karcherDr Katharina Karcher

Katharina is Associate Professor in the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on protest and political violence in the 20th and 21st centuries. Currently, she is PI on the European Research Council funded project: 'Urban Terrorism in Europe (2004-19): Remembering, Imagining, and Anticipating Violence'. Recent publications include the articles 'A Threat to National Security? The Legal Dispute between “Red Rudi” and the British Home Office, 1970 -1971', Contemporary European History. (2022); `The pleasure and pain of passing as (dis)abled: Rudi Dutschke's exile in the UK (1968-1971) and the Ableism of the West German Student Movement', New German Critique, vol. 48 (2021), the co-edited volumes Women, Global Protest Movements, and Political Agency and Gender, Emancipation, and Political Violence (Routledge 2018), and the monograph Sisters in Arms. Militant Feminisms in the Federal Republic of Germany since 1968 (Berghahn 2017).

Steve HewittDr Steve Hewitt 

Steve Hewitt is Associate Professor of History in the Department of History and the Centre for the Study of North America at the University of Birmingham in the UK.  He has written extensively on security and intelligence, including terrorism and counter-terrorism, in the past and present and in a UK, US, and Canada context. Currently, he is working on a history of lone-actor terrorism and a history of terrorism and counter-terrorism in Canada. He tweets on the history of terrorism at @TerrorisingHis1 and has interviews related to the history of terrorism on his YouTube channel, Terrorising History.