Fictionalizing any human tragedy involving hundreds of innocent lives and taking place in highly charged political surroundings will be as dubious as the tragedy itself. No writer whatever his credentials would therefore ever try to do so and also try to draw any conclusion to give authenticity to his observations without being a party to the controversy. And we are afraid we have an example of such an unashamed gesture here in Salim Jiwa’s book entitled, The Death on Air India Flight 182.
The Sikh issue in India and its international repercussions are a much more complicated issue than what is generally thought or professed to be by the official circles. The Indian leadership was quick to win the comradeship of Sikh nation at the time of Independence and accommodate them within the Indian Union but the same leadership and its successors did not feel any compunction whatsoever in shortchanging the Sikhs in every deal viasavis their Hindu compatriots.
The Sikhs are fighting for their survival as a separate entity and while doing so they are also trying to consolidate their overall internal as well as international status, Because of their extremely precarious position within and without Sikhs are not in a position to do something foolish and desperate which may destroy the international sympathy to their cause.
Unfortunately the book, “The Death of Air India Flight 182”, puts the Sikhs in the category mentioned last.
The book is divided into three main headings: The disaster, the investigation and the Punjab cause and effect. It has been written by Salim Jiwa, an Indian journalist living and working in Vancouver for the Daily “The Province”. It is a journalistic exercise but it is not clear for whom.
Salim Jiwa has obviously done prolific writing in this book and the book itself has been produced in quite haste and rather cheaply which affects its quality and appearance. Mr. Jiwa has used unnecessarily long sentences profusely joined with “and” especially in dialogues which makes it a cumbersome reading. Fiction it may be in the style but the presentation is decidedly of “make believe documentary” to give it as much authenticity as possible. Throughout the book and that too very crudely
the effort appears to be to prove that there was a bomb on Flight 182 which destroyed the plane and it was planted by Sikhs with the intention to kill innocent passengers. Unfortunate there emerges no proof that there was any bomb at all in the ill-fated plane which became the cause of its destruction. Moreover if the reader for the sake of argument believes that there was a bomb aboard the plane, even then it doesn’t bear out in any way that it was planted by the Sikhs.
Strangely Mr. Jiwa has avoided implicating the Indian government through its intelligence agency RAW for having some hand in bringing down the Fight 182. An alert and sufficiently informed reader may not have forgotten the sequel of the events in 1971 when an Air India plane was allegedly hijacked to Lahore and destroyed there with the result that the Indian government got an excuse to ban the over flights of Pakistan International Airlines planes between West and East Pakistan. Later events proved that the whole drama was organized by the Indian intelligence to find an excuse for disrupting communication between the then east and West Pakistan.
Looking into Air India disaster and supposing that it was caused by a bomb planted by the Sikhs themselves, the obvious question emerges that “what did the Sikhs achieve by such slaughter in which majority of those killed were Sikhs themselves?” Answer to this question will be as obvious as the question itself. On the contrary if the reader supposes that the destruction of the plane as manipulated by not the Sikhs but an anti-Sikh agency in which case it cannot be other than the Indian government itself, then the answers can be found fitting like a jigsaw puzzle. The result is clear. Sikhs got the blame; Indian government achieved the sympathy of the international forum; foreign governments became less compassionate towards the cause of the Sikhs and Sikhs became tagged as “terrorists” especially in Canada. United Kingdom and other countries where hitherto they had the biggest base for their international support either from their own people or the governments concerned. If so, the Indian government achieved by just a destruction of the Air India flight what it could not have achieved by the army action.
Who was behind the destruction of the flight, will perhaps remain a mystery because the Indian government with all its claims that the tragedy was caused by the militant Sikhs, has refused to publish the findings of the investigating commission. And nobody is going to believe what the other party, the Sikhs have been saying.
And who knows the book is also another exercise of the Indian government inspired lobby to discredit its critics.
Article extracted from this publication >> May 29, 1987