The Hari Putar Dialogues - 52
(The Hindu ; April 8th ; New Delhi: A Sikh journalist, Jarnail Singh, on Tuesday flung a shoe at Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram in protest against the Congress party's decision to field Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar - accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case - for the Lok Sabha elections. Mr. Singh - a special correspondent with the Hindi newspaper, Dainik Jagran - threw the shoe at Mr. Chidambaram during a press conference at the Congress headquarters when the Minister refused to be drawn into a discussion on Sikhs being denied justice by the party. The shoe missed the Minister by a fair margin. The journalist was immediately whisked away by party functionaries who handed him over to the police. From the Congress headquarters, Mr. Singh was taken to the Tughlaq Road police station. He was let off after a brief detention. According to the police, no case has been registered against him. Momentarily taken aback by the journalist's action, Mr. Chidambaram quickly recovered composure and insisted on going on with the press conference despite the media's attention turning entirely to the 'breaking news.' Asked for his reaction on the 'shoe episode,' the Minister said: 'I forgive him.')
Putar: There is a report in The Hindu today about a journalist throwing his shoe at Chidambaram.
Hari: Really Putar? In Baghdad too it was a television journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi who threw his shoes at the former U.S. President, George Bush, at a press conference during his visit to Iraq last December. What was the reason here?
Putar: It was an angry protest against the Congress party's decision to field Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar ' accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case ' for the Lok Sabha elections. Mr Singh, the journalist threw the shoe at Mr. Chidambaram during a press conference at the Congress headquarters when the Minister refused to be drawn into a discussion on Sikhs being denied justice by the party.
Hari: After all these years so few people have been punished. The Sikh community has reasons to be angry. What was Chidambaram's reaction?
Putar: The Minister urged journalists not to allow the episode to hijack the entire press conference. 'Let us not be distracted by what one person has done in a fit of emotion,' he said. Asked for his reaction on the 'shoe episode,' the Minister said: 'I forgive him.'
Hari: It was easier for Chidambaram to forgive and forget because the shoe was not thrown at him because of any personal animosity. It was because of the decision by his party to field those candidates.
Putar: There was something else Chidambaram could have said.
Hari: What is that?
Putar: He could have asked for the other shoe. One shoe is of no use to me, he could have said.
Putar: That would have been witty perhaps, but the context was not right. The reason only one shoe was thrown could be that after the first throw Mr Singh recovered his composure. Later, talking to The Hindu, the journalist regretted his form of protest. 'I have nothing against any political party or Mr. Chidambaram. It happened in the heat of the moment. Though my action might have been wrong, the issue remains,' he said. Urging political parties not to politicize the issue, he added that though Sikhs have come a long way since the 1984 riots, they should be given justice.
Hari: What action has been taken against the journalist?
Putar: The journalist was immediately whisked away by party functionaries who handed him over to the police. From the Congress headquarters, Mr. Singh was taken to the Tughlaq Road police station. He was let off after a brief detention. According to the police, no case has been registered against him.
Hari: Another difference with the Bush episode. That journalist will be criminally prosecuted and face a trial.
Putar: I regard this to be an intelligent decision by the Congress and Chidambaram not to press charges. Had Mr Singh been arrested, it would exacerbate the issue unnecessarily and have cost the party at the elections.
Hari: Already the Sikh vote has been affected. It may not matter that much for the national elections.
Putar: Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, Putar?
Putar: Both journalists missed their target. Why do you think that happened?
Hari: I guess their emotional state must have affected their aim.
Putar: In Bush's case the aim was better but he ducked the shoes.
Hari: That's true, but the Iraqi had two opportunities. Mr Singh threw only one shoe.
Putar: A shoe is an unwieldy object to throw.
Hari: Why is that?
Putar: It's not a properly balanced object, you see. The part with the sole is generally heavier, and that will affect the trajectory the shoe takes even if it aimed correctly.
Putar: For shoe throwing protestors their footwear must be designed in such a way as to make the throwing at a target easier. The weight must be evenly spread through the shoe. Shape is also important. A shoe has an uneven shape. If it were shaped like a boomerang it would be easier to hit a target.
Hari: But it's difficult to design shoes like a boomerang.
Putar: We have to wait for the day when a journalist or protestor will hit his target. Don't you think it would be easier to hit the target with ladies sandals? They have a more boomerang like shape. The weight of the heel could somehow be adjusted. Perhaps a woman journalist or protestor would have better luck if she aimed and threw her sandals in protest? What do you say?
Hari: I don't know, Putar.