16 June 2008

CBC And Air India Flight 182 - the Documentary

From: The Link

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

All Rights Reserved by The South Asian Link.

''What Do You Say?'

Saturday was an eventful day; many fairly notable things happened Here I focus on just one of them.

I needed to pick up some prescriptions at our local WalMart. As it is unsafe for me to drive since my stroke, my husband drove me and was to wait in the car until I came out. Then he would drive up and get me and we'd happily tootle off home, stopping at Taco Bell to get a seven-layer burrito. (Yes, lactovegetarian, if you leave off the sour cream, which contains gelatin.) If that had happened in its usual manner, you would not now be reading this post.

I got my prescriptions and, holding the pharmacy bag, waited. And waited. After about 15 minutes, I began to survey the parking lot, and eventually found our car. I walked to it and just as I unlocked the door, a voice behind me said, 'Gimme your drugs! I gotta knife!'

'So do I.' I'm not sure quite how I dropped my medicine, reached my arm across my body and under my shirt, and turned toward him, my kirpan at his throat. (Actually, I do know. Guru's Kirpaa, eh? And a conditioned reflex.)

The startled criminal had dropped his rusty little knife and was petrified. As this was in a crowded public place, it was only seconds before security appeared, followed closely by the police. Although, I was the one holding a 'weapon,' I guess I didn't much look like the aggressor and the situation was quickly sorted out. The miscreant, by the looks of his teeth and his scrawny self, a crystal meth addict, was whining and crying to me, 'Ma'am, ma'am, please don't press charges! Please, please...I have two strikes!.'

(For those of you who may not know, many US states, including Washington, where I currently live, have 'Three Strike Laws.' Three strikes is a baseball term: 'Three strikes and you're out!' How these laws operate differ from state to state, but the idea is that on a third conviction for a serious crime, the guilty party automatically goes to prison for a long, long time, usually life. Attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon are considered serious crimes. I, personally disapprove of all automatic, mandatory sentencing, as there should sometimes be exceptions, but that is the law here.)

I could not consider letting this miserable excuse of a human being (Mai, dear, he also contains the jot of God, remember? I know, but he's still a miserable excuse of a human being.) go free to injure or kill someone else. He was taken away in handcuffs and I was left to have a long conversation with a policeman who insisted on staying with me until my husband returned. I'll call him Officer John.

He was most interested in my kirpan.

'I should confiscate it as evidence,' he told me.

'If you try to do that, I'll end up in jail; it never leaves my body. You'd have to take it by force.' I replied.

He gave me a loo and I continued. 'But if you really need this one, I have another at home, we could go there together and I suppose then you could use this one for your evidence.'

'It's a pretty knife, but why is it so important to you? You'd really be willing to fight me for it?'

'Oh, yes, if I had to, but I'd rather not. I am an Amritdhari Sikh, a Khalsa. The kirpan - by the way, it's called a kirpan, please quit calling it a knife - is one of five article of faith, kakkars, that we always keep on our bodies.'

Surprisingly, he was interested and asked about the other four. I explained about them - the unshorn hair, covered by a turban by men and a scarf or turban by women (OK, I have a confession. Although I don't go out with my hair open, I don't always keep it properly covered, but this particular day, as good luck(?) would have it, I was quite 'decent.' I'll tie a dastaar as soon as I learn some way to either do it with one hand or to get my left hand working again), kesh, the comb, kangha, the bangle, kara and the breeches, kechera. I was sure that he would have something embarrassing to ask about the kechera, but his mind was going in a different direction.

And what he said next is the real reason for this post.

'I have a friend who says he is a Sikh and he has that kara-thing, but he cuts his hair and shaves. Is he a real Sikh?'

How does one answer such a question from someone who really knows little or nothing about us and our beliefs? Here is what I told him:

'That is a topic much debated among us. Some would say yes, some would say no. We have a code of conduct, the Sikh Rehat Maryada (SRM), that says that a Sikh is a human being who believes certain things and isn't a member of any other religion. It doesn't specifically mention the hair, but some people say that if you believe those things, you can't possibly cut your hair. Some say that's an outdated attitude and should be dropped. Still others say that only Amritdhari, initiated Sikhs are really real Sikhs.'

'In another part of the SRM, it does say to keep one's kesh and some other behaviours that a Sikh should or shouldn't do, but in the definition, it doesn't say.'

'What do you say?'

Talk about being put on the spot! 'Personally, I'll accept anybody as a Sikh who says they are, unless I have a good reason not to. (I'm thinking here specifically of KP Gill and his ilk.) But a Khalsa needs to look like a Khalsa. And I feel really good when I see a brother or sister that looks like a Sikh, what we call a visible Sikh. The other kind make me feel sad.'

The conversation went on for quite some time, until my husband finally showed up; he had been using the public facilities in WalMart, he said. (For a whole hour?)

That is the meat of our conversation. I put to you the question: What do you say?

(An afterward that I just cannot resist. If my criminal had actually gotten my 'drugs,' he would have gotten the surprise of his life. You see, they are preps for a colonoscopy, designed to clean out every bit of fecal matter from the intestine. He would not have gotten high, but he would have, as we say, dropped an elephant, probably with considerable pain, if he hadn't drunk a whole lot of water.)

Thanks again to professional photographer, Charles Mecham for the generous gift of his photos of visible Sikhs.. Please visit his website to see more. Blogger is misbehaving and refusing to add pictures right now. I'll go ahead and post this and add Mr. Meacham's great pictures later. It is later and the pictureshave been added, all from Charles Meacham's Being Sikh collection, except, of course, my forget-me-not signature picture.