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Personal Revenge Motivated Hayer Assassination


The Globe and Mail, Vancouver, Jul. 16, 1999

Photo: Tara Singh Hayer

Personal revenge cited as motive in editor's killing; Police suggest article in Sikh paper sparked shooting, not religious or political squabble

The killing of B.C. publisher and editor Tara Singh Hayer was an act of personal revenge sparked by an editorial in his newspaper, The Indo-Canadian Times, police say.

They have made no arrests in connection with the shooting last November in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey.

But after interviewing more than 200 people in the past eight months, police have dismissed widespread speculation that members of the Sikh community linked to the unsolved Air-India bombing in 1985 that killed 329 people were involved in the slaying.

Police have also rejected an oft-repeated theory that factions in the community fighting over religious rituals at the Sikh temples, such as the use of tables and chairs during a communal meal, were responsible for the crime, Corporal Grant Learned told reporters at a news conference yesterday.

Police are also continuing to investigate whether the killer was helped by others who had their own motives for seeing Mr. Hayer dead, he said.

Although a suspect has not yet been identified, the police are interested in an Indo-Canadian who is a long-time Edmonton resident, Cpl. Learned added. He refused to comment on a media report that police had questioned Inderjit Singh, a 38-year old Edmonton truck driver, in connection with the killing.

Mr. Singh was not available for an interview yesterday. But he has said police claimed they were told he had killed Mr. Hayer. Mr. Singh has denied the accusation and said he was working in Edmonton on the day Mr. Hayer died.

Cpl. Learned also would not say which editorial in The Indo-Canadian Times police thought sparked the murder. Mr. Hayer's editorials dealt with events in the Sikh communities in Canada and India. He also often wrote about the personal lives of public figures.

Mr. Hayer, a recipient of several awards including the Order of Canada, had been a controversial figure in the B.C. Punjabi-speaking community for more than 15 years before his death. He initially backed an independent Khalistan for Sikhs in India but later turned into a fierce critic of those who supported violence to reach the goal.

The current police theory for his killing sounds extremely similar to circumstances surrounding an attempt on Mr. Hayer's life 11 years ago that left him a paraplegic, with two bullets lodged in his spine.

Harkirat Singh Bagga was sentenced to 14 years in prison for shooting Mr. Hayer in his newspaper office in 1988. During his trial, Mr. Bagga told the court that he shot the editor because Mr. Hayer's paper had published articles that damaged the reputation of his father, Ontario resident Santokh Singh [Bagga].

In response to complaints about the stories at that time, Mr. Hayer identified Mr. Bagga as the source of his information. When Mr. Bagga denied being the source, Mr. Hayer put copies of his taped interview with Mr. Bagga on sale in Punjabi stores.