Air India Documentary Is Same Old, Same Old!
Air India 182 offers no new insight into the tragedy, which continue to divide critical opinion as what and who really was behind it. However, writer-director Sturla Gunnarson deserves credit for his disciplined and reasoned approach to steers clear of the one-sided agenda of Vancouver Sun’s Kim Bolan, who is listed as a consultant for the film.
By R. Paul Dhillon
SURREY – The upcoming CBC documentary “Air India 182” offers no new insight into Canada’s worst ever aviation tragedy despite a valiant effort by renowned Canadian filmmaker Sturla Gunnarsson to faithfully recount the story up until the conclusion of the court case that acquitted accused Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri.
The LINK got an exclusive preview of the 90-minute feature length documentary that uses archival footage and dramatized sequences featuring passengers but more controversially having actors play the actual Air India players like Talwinder Singh Parmar (played by Baljinder Singh), Hardyal Singh Johal (played by Sarabjeet Singh) and Inderjit Singh Reyat (played by Gurpreet Singh Chana).
Gunnarson, who says he grew up in Vancouver being aware of the horrendous effects the killings of 329 people had on the families, does an effective job in telling the story from the families perspective, giving a real sense of massive loss of life from the senseless downing of flight 182.
However, he basically rehashes information from the Air India court case and other questionable “CSIS intelligence” that presents the case that has now been taken as a bible by Canadian mainstream media’s propaganda that it was a conspiracy by Sikh militants who carried out the bombing despite the fact that other than the so-called “bomb-maker” Reyat, there has not been a single conviction in the case.
The documentary gives a distorted view that the conspiracy was hatched by these so-called Sikh militants to get back at the Indian government’s attack on the Golden Temple without delving into the Indian agents’ (RAW) role in the conspiracy or even their attempts to fuel tensions in the Sikh community during the turbulent period of 1984.
Asked to explain this and many omissions of numerous plots and conspiracies that led to the tragedy and Gunnarson is forced to time and fall back on the same defence - that the film is basically taken from the Malik-Bagri case and other intelligence sources.
“These conspiracy theories – it’s just nonsense,” Gunnarson told the LINK.
“I have grown up in the Sikh community and they are a very vibrant people but that does not mean that there aren’t bad Sikhs. It is quite possible to have Sikh villains,” says Gunnarson, who is married to a BC Sikh woman and says he handled the story with the utter sensitivity towards the Sikh community.
But after repeated questioning from this reporter - that why were specifically things that point to the Indian government’s role as well as other doubts as to whether this was a larger conspiracy rather than the work of these “buffoonish” group of Sikh militants who weren’t even sure whether the bags would even get on the plane and it was a sad, criminally insane series of events, not of the so-called bombers’ doing, that led the bombs to get on to those planes – Gunnarson is forced to admit that fact there is nothing new in the story and either you take the police and court’s view of things or you don’t!
“There is nothing new in the film as it is not intended as a investigative film but more as a record of an important part of our modern history in Canada,” he says. “I would be happy if the film brings about a discussion among Sikhs and Canadians and a healing between the two communities to move forward.”
Parmar, who was a central figure in the Air India case and was tried a number of times unsuccessfully in Canadian courts on various charges, has now been permanently labeled as the “mastermind” behind the conspiracy thanks in much part to the propaganda in the mainstream press, especially the lengthy one-sided writings of the Vancouver Sun’s agenda-based reporter Kim Bolan, who is listed a consultant on the documentary.
It should be pointed out that Gunnarson, who deserves credit for his disciplined and reasoned approach, steers clear of much of Bolan’s well known bias in the case and sticks largely to the facts.
Parmar, who gave his life to his militant cause for a Sikh homeland, was a complicated figure who didn’t intimidate easily. Court records, police interviews and media scrums show him to be very committed revolutionary but who time and again denied that he had anything to do with the Air India bombing. He has also been pointed as a double agent who certainly had an Indian agent (Mr. X who has never been identified) with him when he traveled to Duncan to meet Reyat during that whole “blast” in the woods incident that Canadian police never went to check on until the plane went down.
Parmar was tortured by the Indian government and killed in their usual in-custody killings of political prisoners. Why didn’t the Indian government charge and try him for the Air India bombing as it was their plane and many of their citizens and countrymen who died in it.
And now he has been declared a mastermind of the conspiracy in Canada without the opportunity to defend himself as Canadian authorities don’t even know who delivered the homemade bombs. Other than Reyat purchasing some parts that could be used to make a detonating device (Reyat in his plea bargain with the Crown maintained as such that he gathered the parts but neither made the bombs or knows anyone else who made the bombs) there is absolutely no physical evidence to connect the various players to the crime.
The documentary, aside from making an apology for the police’s incompetence by saying they didn’t have the resources and didn’t know what they were doing, also omits things like what was the role of Surjan Gill, a self-appointed President of Khalistan but more importantly an alleged CSIS mole who would be the best person to help convict the so-called people involved in the conspiracy because he knew everything that was going on from the inside. Why was he shipped off shore to England before the Air India trial began? The documentary features turncoat MP Ujjal Dosanjh but fails to point out that he was also Surjan Gill’s lawyer. While it goes into death threats to Rajiv Gandhi during his visit to North America and his mother’s assassination but conveniently leaves out the thousands of Sikhs slaughtered by Gandhi’s Congress hooligans with the help of the police.
These omissions alone make it somewhat of a one-sided view of things that the film takes and therefore it opens itself up to criticism.
There are a lot of recordings by police where the subjects saying stuff in Punjabi that can be construed as they are carrying out a conspiracy but you would need to suspend disbelief and also would have to believe that they were trained by the CIA’s foreign insurgency unit. There were also erasure of many recordings and due to many such facts of police incompetence or interference – the resoluteness with which the documentary tries to tell the story of the bombings as absolute remains questionable at best!
Air India 182, which airs on the anniversary of the flight's departure, 23 years ago, and on the eve of Canada’s National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism, will be telecast commercial-free on CBC Television, Sunday, June 22, at 8 p.m.
16 Jun 2008 by editor
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