Amandeep Atwal was a 17-year old Canadian girl known for her infectious laugh, positive presence and belief in love.
On July 30, 2003, Amandeep’s own father murdered her. He stabbed her repeatedly. After he killed her, he mutilated her face. He then drove her body some two hours to a hospital, where he claimed she had committed suicide.
Amandeep’s father, Rajinder Singh Atwal, was known in the community as a “mild-mannered” and “moderate” Sikh man. However, Atwal was driven into a murderous rage when he discovered that Amandeep had fallen in love with a non-Sikh boy, Todd McIsaac.
Amandeep and Todd had dated for three years, and intended to marry. Knowing that her family would disapprove, Amandeep kept their relationship private. She and Todd would meet secretly, and if he visited her home while her parents were away, he’d keep his running shoes by the back door just in case he needed to make a quick escape.
In June of 2003, Amandeep and Todd got into a terrible car accident, at which point her parents learned of their relationship. The revelation led to strife in Amandeep’s family, and rumours that her father became abusive toward her. Within just a few weeks, Amandeep had packed her things and left home to live with Todd, leaving only a note behind. Her mother discovered her note and managed to find her before she had left town. As a condition of letting her leave, Amandeep’s father managed to convince her to take one last vacation with the family, after which he vowed to drive her back to her new home with Todd. It seemed like an act of reconciliation – or even a blessing. She was told that she would see extended family and tell them of her decision to share her life with Todd.
She would never return. Some reports say that Amandeep was stabbed almost twenty times while still wearing her seatbelt. Her father played the part of a grieving parent after bringing her mutilated body to the hospital, but showed next to no emotion afterward – at least not until he was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Rajinder Singh Atwal remained composed during his trial, and his lawyer called no one to the stand as part of his defense. Amandeep’s brother said he felt conflicted about his sister’s death – on the one hand, he said – there was his sister; but on the other, his father.
Amandeep’s fiancé, Todd, remembers her as a brilliant, beautiful woman whose presence still guides him.
That day held a promise so ripe,
In raw expectation.
That day held forgiveness,
Like water in the hand of a desert wanderer.
That day held words,
Like the first breaths of freedom of an innocent prisoner.
She had love held captive,
In the unwalled spaces of her expansive heart.
That day she set them free.
She had beauty flowing unbounded from her being,
Only to be deflected by Intolerance.
That day beauty was set free.
No hurt, or blood can taint the purity of a heart in love.
No betrayal can deny existence of that beauty.
That day she set them free.
May she from whom this love and beauty flows,
Be to whom this love and beauty is bestowed.
Another light guiding honour,
On its path to freedom.
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