Kids Corner

 Surinder Malik



June 1984:
The Indian Diplomat






June 5, 1984. News of the attack on the Holiest of Holies of Sikhdom - the Darbar Sahib of Amritsar, popularly known as the Golden Temple - stunned the world.

Even more so, it hit each Sikh hard, no matter where he or she lived, regardless of the degree of his or her religious observance or interest in the goings-on in India.

In Toronto, Canada, a young 19-year-old man, Jasbir Singh Saini, was deeply troubled by it and became increasingly agitated as he heard the successive reports on the radio describing the enormity of the outrage committed by Indira Gandhi's government.

I had seen this Grade Twelve high school student in the gurdwara from time to time, but hadn't had an occasion to speak to him. But he was easily identifiable, and easy to remember.

By the time he had heard the fourth such report which, by now, was spelling out news of an all-out massacre of the pilgrims by a full-scale military assault - the attack had taken place on one of the busiest high-holidays, the Shaheedi Gurparab of Guru Arjan - he was visibly troubled and was chomping at the bit to do something, anything.

As rage gripped his young soul, he dressed up quickly to head out on a mission of his own.

A slight figure in a black turban and a youthful beard, he took the subway and emerged at the Yonge and Bloor station in the heart of downtown Toronto.

Towering above him, on the north-east corner was an office tower, adjacent to, and part of a large office and shopping complex showcasing The Hudson Bay Company's sprawling flagship store. Two Bloor Street East.

Jasbir Singh took the elevator up to the twenty-second floor, which housed the Indian Consulate.

He entered the reception area.

A drab office replicating a bit of India, it had a reception desk at one end, sporting an Underwood typewriter. A basic coffee table covered with a collection of dog-eared Indian magazines and newspapers, and a few chairs, littered one side. Next to it stood a tall wooden receptacle, with a third of its slots filled with - to use a generous term - "tourist literature". The rest were typically empty.

Crude and primitve "Khira" metal almirahs stood around sombrely, completing the well-cultivated desi atmosphere.

The dismal walls had a portrait of Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Mohandas Gandhi - [the two are not related to each other]. Another wall had a large poster, bravely trying to tout Indian tourism. [Remember, these were the days, though by now the mid-1980s, when India and all things Indian were still stuck in pre-independence, early 20th century mode.]

Jasbir Singh strode in. He ignored the security guards lolling around the reception desk.

Stopped before the picture frame with Mrs. Gandhi's mug-shot and scowled at it. He stood in front of it, his legs parted, locking his eyes with hers. His rage had surfaced by now and had begun to overpower him.

Suddenly, with lightning speed, he picked up a chair and smashed it against the picture, shattering the glass. He hit it again and again, as if expecting blood to spurt out from it at any moment.

The guards yelled out and rushed to grab him.

He simply dropped the chair, turned around, opened the door and disappeared down the corridor.

The commotion had been registered inside the consular offices, which were stacked behind a closed door. A couple of clerks emerged. A guard, barely able to contain his excitement, managed to blurt out what had happened.

A clerk disappeared into the innards of the office. Seconds later, having been assured that the coast was clear, the Consul General of India swung the door open and stormed onto the scene.

Consul General Surinder Malik was a short and stocky man. Though loosely labelled a "diplomat", he was equally disliked by staff and any visitor who had the misfortune of having to deal with him.

He was obnoxious in temperament, uncouth in appearance. Neither the clip-on tie, nor the Delhi-style flip-flops he often wore to the office, did much to add to his stature. He often turned up for work with stubble on his chin. He was also known to freely dip into the consulate's duty-free liquor supply, using the excuse that his job entailed entertaining a lot of iffy characters.

I had had various dealings with him, and often wondered how he fitted into the IFS (Indian Foreign Service) context, since he lacked the usual graces that its members were then widely known to possess. His difficulty with the English language, his crude Haryanvi Hindi, and his tendency to burst into Punjabi expletives when angry, merely fuelled the rumours that his appointment had been through strings pulled by an uncle or nephew somewhere in the right place back in India.

There was also a widely-held belief that he was an "Intelligence" man - though the word clearly was meant to describe his career orientation and not his mental prowess.

A Punjabi Hindu, he had no love to spare for Sikhs. Certainly, therefore, he was no relative to the Malik of Air India fame - a chapter yet to unfold at this point of time.

When he burst into the reception area, it was obvious that he had already been apprised of the situation.

He flitted around the room, staring at one thing, then another, as if assessing the situation.

And then, without warning, he picked up a chair and, holding it firmly in both his hands, began smashing everything in sight with it.

When one of the security guards, a female, returned to the scene - after a futile chase to apprehend the young man who had fled a few minutes ago - she saw an even more bizarre scene unfolding before her eyes.

The other guard and the consular staff had retreated to a corner, as they, too, watched with horror this second madman who had appeared before them within the course of a few minutes.

Surinder Malik was throrough and efficient.

He began with Mrs. Gandhi's portrait, and went at it until the frame disintegrated and the damaged face fell to the floor.

Then he went for the old man Gandhi's picture, and did the same with it.

Legs had fallen off the chair in his hands. He crashed it heavily on the coffee table, and picked up another chair.

And then went around the room - well, like a wild bull in a china shop, if I may be forgiven the cliché.

He tackled the tourism poster, the reception desk, the metal almirahs, the coffee table again, and then the bare walls.

He yelled out at his staff and chided them for merely looking on. When they joined in the mayhem, he screamed: Jaldi, jaldi! Hurry, hurry! Before the saala media arrive!

They picked up the other chairs and threw them around until they were all broken.

He stood back, and surveyed the scene. Kicked at the magazines and newspapers until they lay scattered around the floor.

Dusted his hands. Walked over to the telephone. Called 911 and, in a frantic voice, demanded police help: "We've been attacked", he spat into the receiver, feigning distress and terror.

More of the staff had emerged from the back offices. They stood around, with Malik almost literally foaming at the mouth, pouring out four-lettered abuse in Punjabi to no one in particular.

It didn't take long for the police to turn up.

Mr. Surinder Malik, Consul General of India, personally spoke to the Metro Toronto police officers and described in great detail how this young Sikh man had gone on a rampage, destroying everything within sight.

The police officers took copious notes.

Metro Toronto Police are undoubtedly amongst the best in the world ... I should know: I was a Police Commissioner and have been a police critic for a few decades now.

Not surprisingly, it didn't take them long to track down the young man.

When they turned up at his door, he readily accepted his guilt.

And explained, without hesitation, what he had done, and why he had done it.

He confessed to having smashed Mrs. Gandhi's picture. That's it. No more, no less.

He was charged with Mischief, a Criminal Code Offence.

But the investigating officers were troubled by some of the other stuff Mr. Malik had told them in his sworn report.

To begin with, the officers were convinced of Jasbir Singh's sincerity. He had been forthright in all of his answers and had held back on nothing.

But one other thing intrigued them even more:

Jasbir Singh had only one arm. The other was not only completely missing, but its absence was routinely hidden by him in an empty shirt-sleeve. The guards at the Consulate offices had failed to notice this fact. And neither Mr. Malik nor his staff were aware of this.

The officers went back to the scene of the crime and it didn't take them long to determine that it was impossible for a young man, slight in stature and with an arm missing, to cause the damage Mr. Malik claimed Jasbir Singh had caused, within the timeframe each witness had reported.

They dug deeper.

And here's what they obtained:

A sworn statement from one of the security guards - who was employed by a private security company and merely contracted out to the Indian Consulate - declaring that she had personally witnessed Indian Consul General Surinder Malik destroying the portraits and damaging the furniture.

Convinced by now that there was much more than met the eye, the officers launched a full-fledged investigation.

And, lo and behold! There was another witness.

Dana Lewis, a radio reporter, had clued in on the emergency call on his wireless police monitor, and had rushed to the scene ... to see Mr Malik personally on a rampage in his own reception area!

When confronted with the evidence, Surinder Malik claimed diplomatic immunity.

As a result, he went scot free: he could not be charged by the police.

And Jasbir Singh? The charges against him were dropped because neither Mr. Malik nor any of the consular staff was willing to testify against him in open court. It would shed Malik's diplomatic immunity, and the lawyers could tear them apart under cross-examination.

And India's Consul General, Surinder Malik?

After a short and convenient lapse of time - and after considerable encouragement from Canada's Foreign Affairs and the Policing community - he was quietly pulled back to Mother India.

But not until he had committed a few more crimes.

He is now suspected of having been heavily behind the Indian intelligence operation which resulted in the bombing of Air India Flight 182 on June 23, 1985. And in the massive campaign of misinformation which spewed out from the Indian Consulate Office in Toronto thereafter.

Four other facts you need to know about Surinder Malik:

Surinder Malik's wife and daughter were booked to fly on Air India Flight 182. At the last moment, Surinder Malik called the Air India office and cancelled their reservations. The reason he gave for this later: his daughter, unexpectedly, had to give a school examination.

Siddhartha Singh, a senior bureaucrat visiting the Indian Consular Offices in Toronto from India - he was Head of North American Affairs for External Affairs Relations Division of the Government of India - was booked to return to India on the ill-fated Flight 182. He was with Surinder Malik a few days before the crash on "official business". Suddenly, Surinder Malik cancelled his seat on the flight, again "at the last minute". Siddhartha flew to Brussels instead.

Surinder Malik had a close friend of his - a car dealer in Toronto - cancel his reservation on the same flight, a few days before it took off from Toronto.

And, when the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) realized that Surinder Malik and his Consular cohorts were providing them misinformation pertaining to the Air India Flight 182, the CSIS "forbade its operatives to contact Indian agents. It had concluded that the Indian intelligence agents were more of a threat to Canadian security than a helping hand to Canada's domestic spy service." [Soft Target - see below.]

How do I know all of this? From the horses' mouths - the intelligence operatives who had to report to Surinder Malik, but hated his guts; from police officers involved at difference stages of the saga; and from key media persons who have followed the shenanigans of the Indians from day one.

And, if you are one of those who still believes that the Indians were and are the good guys and innocent victims through all of these goings-on, and that Canada's Sikhs are the trouble-makers, check out an account of that whole period, put together by two of Canada‘s top journalists with impeccable credentials:

Soft Target: How the Indian Intelligence Service Penetrated Canada, researched and written jointly by The Toronto Star Reporter Brian McAndrew and The Globe & Mail Reporter Zuhair Kashmeri. Lorimer Books, Toronto, 1989, 151 pp. ISBN-10: 1550282212 , ISBN-13: 978-1550282214. [I believe the book has gone into further editions since and is still available.]


Postscript: The media reported the story as an attack by a Sikh on the Indian Consular Offices, virtually destroying its outer offices. There was never any reportage, however, of Surinder Malik's hand in the crime - even when the facts became fully known to the police, the government and the media.  


[This article first appeared on in February 2009 as # 9 in its series titled "1984 & I"]

June 1, 2013 




Conversation about this article

1: Dharamveer Singh (Mumbai, India), February 20, 2009, 1:12 PM.

What I read above made total sense to me. The unveiling of the fact is also done in a very concise way. It's a well-written article containing all the relevant facts and outlines the character of an Indian Diplomat who ruins his country, both in and out of India. I wanted to be in the Indian Army when I was a small kid. However, as I grew up and became aware of 1984, I have no respect for Indians and I feel it's not a homeland anymore and that we are not safe anywhere. It would be great if people from around the world read this piece.

2: Ajit Singh (Manchester, U.K.), February 20, 2009, 3:26 PM.

I'm curious about what Jasbir Singh Saini is doing nowadays. Does anyone know? And, of course, the scoundrel, Surinder Malik - Is he still alive?

3: Raj (Canada), February 20, 2009, 8:47 PM.

Another book every Sikh should read is "Open Secrets", by M.K. Dhar. He was part of th "intelligence" in Canada and Punjab during those trouble years. He account is most honest and authentic, he didn't take sides either. By the way, remember those rumours about Sanjay and Indira Gandhi? According to Mr. Dhar, they have lots of credibility.

4: Amanpreet Singh Bal (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada), February 21, 2009, 7:00 AM.

Another book that will help people understand the dubious characters behind the Air India tragedy is "Betrayal: The Spy Canada Abandoned". The author, Hon. David Kilgour is a former politician who served as one of Canada's Cabinet Ministers in both Liberal and Conservative governments, and a well-respected Human Rights Activists.

5: G.C. Singh (U.S.A.), February 21, 2009, 8:59 AM.

Maloy Krishna Dhar in his book, OPEN SECRET, describes how he and his wife were specially sent to Canada to infiltrate the Sikh Institutions and use a few Sikhs as shields to carry out their covert operations against the Sikhs and muffle the voice of Sikh freedom and justice for ever. There are strong suspicions that as a very senior RAW operative was responsible for masterminding the Air India bombing. M.K.Dhar, who is a Bengali Hindu and member of RSS and largely responsible for defaming Sikhs as terrorists, describes his operation in Toronto, and other parts of Canada during the period of the bombing of Air India Flight 182 and the Sikh nation's struggle to fight against Indian oppression, in his book OPEN SECRET as follows: " - Penetration of a few selected gurudwaras; - Cultivation of a few identified targets amongst the most vocal section of the Sikh Community; - Penetration of the Punjabi print and electronic media and control of the print and electronic media operated by the non-Sikh segments of the Asiatic and Indian origin; - Creation of a few clandestine human assets in the 'lumpen' segment of the Sikh workforce in Canada, who were more drawn to the separatist leaders and hate-preaching priests; - To reach out to the Indian community with saturated supplies of audio and videotapes on current affairs in India and specially filmed tapes on the atrocities committed by the Bhinderawale goons; - To convert the 'Indian News' to a quality publication with the help of a newly acquired fast printing/copying machine; - To meet the Canadian Foreign Office mandarins and the RCMP point men at regular intervals to brief them about the developments back in India and to share whatever 'open' information the Indian Mission could cull out from the community through open means; - To target mainstream Canadian print and electronic media and sell the Indian side of the story. ( read -buying/recruiting Canadian journalists); - To maintain ironclad cover and not to betray my involvement in intelligence operations; - To befriend key diplomats in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka Missions with view of reaching some targeted members of the Pakistan Mission; - To generate a few 'friends' amongst the Canadian Members of Parliament." Ragunanadan Lal Bhatia, then State Minister of Foreign Minister told the Indian Parliament that Indian Government spends more that Rs.1000 Crores on "Sikh-related activities abroad".

6: Jodh Singh (Jericho, N.Y., U.S.A.), February 21, 2009, 5:24 PM.

It is a very impressive story. Every Sikh was hurt when he or she heard about the attack on Durbar Sahib. No wonder, the young man vented his anger at the Indian Consulate. We were perhaps too timid here in New York and therefore did not enter the Indian Consular Offices at 64 Street. We merely raised slogans for sometime and then left. We all knew the propaganda run by Kukarman Indira Gandhi to defame Sikhs everywhere, whether we supported Khalistan or not. For many years, I was refused a visa to enter Punjab - from 1984 to 1989 - until, finally I was given a limited one to visit Patiala and Amritsar. I wish somebody will write an account of what the Sikhs gained or lost through this Ghallughara - after twenty-five years, it is timely to do so. It seems that many of us may be forgetting this chapter. It is trite to say: those who forget their history are bound to repeat it. We need to ensure we don't by educating our children about it.

7: Baljit Kaur (New Delhi, India), February 21, 2009, 5:42 PM.

While under pressure to declare him 'persona non grata' and have him thrown out of Canada, the Canadian Government negotiated with the Indian Government and finally had Surinder Malik removed from Canadian soil, but not before he had done considerable mischief. He was rewarded by India for his spurious services in Canada with an appointment as ambassador to Qatar, considered "a hole in the ground" in international diplomatic circles, in the Persian Gulf. Incidentally, a number of other Indian thugs were also unceremoniously thrown out of Canada on the insistence of Canada's External Affairs, as reported in The Globe & Mail - including M.K. Dhar and Brij Mohan Lal.

8: Gurcharan Singh Kulim (London, U.K. ), February 22, 2009, 6:25 AM.

The tragedy of Air India was never part of of ANY Sikh plan, however remotely. It is apparent the Indian RAW agencies, etc., were hard at it with support from individual, racist RSS/BJP ruffians in key positions, offically or unofficially. I never beleived the Sikhs had anything to do with it. However, the loud and often fool-hardy Sikh claimants were implicated into it because of their lack of skills to address such issues to the media properly. I too wonder what has happened to Sardar Jasbir Singh ji. Those who shout loudly should be shouting to decorate this young man and make him a Sikh icon to be proud of.

9: Prabhjot Singh (Mumbai, India), February 23, 2009, 1:13 AM.

Anti-Sikh genocide has happened many times in histroy. By Mughals and then at the hands of the British, and now in "democratic" and "scular" India. But one thing to remember here is that the Raj of Mughals and the British has fallen, so will this raj. Guru Gobind Singh has declared "Raj Karega Khalsa", we will fulfill his wish at the cost of our lives.

10: Sukhwinder Singh (Chandigarh, Punjab), February 23, 2009, 3:50 AM.

It's an amazing account of Jasbir Singh's bravery and equally shocking act of deceit by incorrigible Indian diplomats. But to bring forth the truth in no uncertain terms calls for a daring person; which T Sher Singh is. When it comes to 1984, T. Sher Singh seems to be trying address a wound deep inside which isn't healing even after 25 years. Sikhs always lament the fact that we could not write our own history during those dark periods when we were forced to recede into jungles. We will still be lamenting the same way 300 years from now because like 300 years ago today also we live in a hostile environment where forces are hell bent to assimilate the unique Sikh identity in the name of uniformity. A commendable start by to bring on record personal accounts without which truth would remain hidden in the hearts while Governments continue removing all evidence.

11: I.J. Singh (New York), February 23, 2009, 11:28 AM.

"After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now." [T.S.Eliot, 1920 (Gerontion)]

12: Vishavjit Singh (New York, U.S.A.), February 23, 2009, 1:53 PM.

Sher, thanks for, to the say the least, an illuminating article. My response to Surinder Malik's crimes is capturing him in the following Sikhtoon. [Editor: You can view it hereinabove on this page, as the first image from the bottom, on the right side of the page.]

13: Ajay Singh (Rockville, U.S.A.), February 25, 2009, 8:56 PM.

I grew up in U.P. and went to school in Mussoorie. Punjab was a place where we went to meet grandparents, uncles and aunts. It always felt home. I remember feeling elated and excited when we got to Ambala on the train. There was something about the air, sounds, language that just felt right and a deep sense of belonging, sort of home. But that was the extent of it. I had no connection with the people, I had no Punjabi friends and didn't make any for a long time. Didn't need to. I spoke Hindi, was an Indian to the core, hated Pakistan, blamed Muslims for all the ills in India. There were rumblings we heard from students from the North East, they hated the Indian army, weren't nationalists either and we didn't care about or understand their issues. Most of my classmates wanted to join the army and air force, many did. I remember in 1980 or 81, my history teacher mentioned Bhindrawalle because he had been arrested and the initial stages of the Akali morcha had occurred, but I had no interest. All was dandy until about 1982. We had moved to Punjab by then, first in Beas, Nabha and then in 1984 - Patiala. It was the Asian Games and the first horror stories from Haryana started coming in, Sikhs being pulled out of buses and beaten and harassed. But we still rooted for the Indian Hockey team, blamed the 7-2 loss to Pakistan on the goalkeeper, still very Indian. In college, it was still India and its issues, now Sikhs were also perceived as problems, we were the "them" in that "us and them" discussions. I had both Hindu and Sikh friends, but all were from boarding schools, none from the local Punjabi schools. I always sided with the Akalis, perhaps because I was Sikh and strong family ties to farming and it made sense to support Akalis. I had no understanding of the water issues, Anandpur Sahib Resolution, etc. But I started reading, asking about all the issues, rivers, the Gurdwara Act, state capital and the discussions became heated and uglier. All around, the atmosphere got tense, CRPF check-points, President's Rule, daily killing reports, Akali-Taksal issues, Darbar Sahib became a fortress and finally - June. Four days of curfew and then the news of the culmination of 'hostilities'. There were interviews of people that were so uncharacteristic of Doordarshan that they appeared staged and rehearsed. The worst of that was of General Sparrow. I remember Gurbani started coming on AIR every morning at 4am. Bhai Surinder Singh ji's voice and the Shabads he sang still ring in my ears. He picked some jewels that were just perfect for the time. Personally, the world had changed: I never had any new Hindu friends since. Even a casual encounter for me became testy and uneasy. I did not speak with my school friends, broke all contact with them. The killing of Vaidya and Indira Gandhi were neither surprising nor shocking, they were sort of expected. But not the carnage of Oct-Nov 1984. That one really shook me. I remember getting sick to my stomach in Delhi in 1985, when I had to go there for U.S. Visa purposes, and then again in 1986 to fly out. I became a Punjabi, a Sikh. I do not call myself an Indian, have not watched an Indian movie since 1986, don't remember the words to Jan Gan Man, hate Gandhi/Nehru, don't want to go back, the few times I have been there I detest going through Delhi, just want to get out of there. I would prefer landing in Lahore and then crossing over. I don't care much for Punjab either now, after all the hell that state went through, they couldn't find anyone but Badal. Still beholden to Delhi, fighting for scraps. Sikhi is not beholden to Indian Punjab, we have important places in India, fine, but there are just as important places in Pakistan, it is the birth place of Sikhi and the most recent place of Sikh Raj. Our history is there also. If Indian Sikhs are happy with India/Punjab, why should I lose sleep over it. But it feels so wrong. I guess rationalizing ...

14: Joseph Burdin (London, United Kingdom), June 02, 2013, 7:27 AM.

I have read nothing that captures the true nature of the conflict, and the dichotomy, between the Indian government and the Sikhs, the way this article has so vividly. Thank you for this extraordinary description of a corrupt regime and a justifiably outraged community.

15: Gurinder Singh (Stockton, California, U.S.A.), June 03, 2013, 7:08 PM.

I read "Soft Target". Surinder Malik had a notorious Indian Intelligence operative -- a Sikh, apparently, with the name of Davinder Ahluwalia - helping him in such operations. I think he was also quickly sent home in a hurry after the bombing of Air India. The Indian machinery had dubbed every turban wearing Sikh abroad as a terrorist. I think the operation is still continuing -- with the help of some sell-out Sikhs. It manifests in different methods such as encouraging fights in gurdwaras, spreading misinformation about Sikh scriptures, etc. I am at a loss to understand why the Indian Government chooses to treat its minorities in this way.

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The Indian Diplomat"

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