Posted by: John Elliott | April 10, 2009

Another shoe thrown – another Indian politician a target

Congress buckles under flying shoe

One of George W. Bush’s most significant positive legacies (there aren’t many) is that the Iraqi journalist who threw a shoe at him last year opened up a new way for the desperate to express their abhorrence of politicians.

Naveen Jindal

Naveen Jindal

I was writing this post, with the headline “Congress buckles under flying shoe”, when the tv reported that a shoe has been thrown today at another politician – this time it was at Naveen Jindal, a Congress MP and industrialist and a popular figure on Delhi’s party and polo circuits, who was the target of an angry retired (reportedly drunk) school teacher in Rajasthan.

This looks like becoming a feature of India’s current general election campaign and is surely to be welcomed, providing no shoe lands too painfully on its target, and the throwers are not roughed up by the police and goons who guard the politicians.

I say this because many politicians and political parties deserve to be publicly humiliated for the appalling, self-seeking, and often corrupt way that they have run the country for years.

Jarnail Singh

Jarnail Singh

When Jarnail Singh, a 36-year old Sikh journalist, threw a shoe on April 7 towards Palaniappan Chidambaram, India’s home minister, he could never have thought he would hit his target so successfully. He says he aimed to miss Chidambaram – which he did – because the minister was only an intermediary target  for Sikh anger.

The real target were Congress Party leaders who had named two politicians, Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, as general election candidates. These two men  both have cases against them stemming from violence that led to the deaths of 3,000 Sikhs after prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh security guard in 1984. Added to this, it looked as if a court case against Tytler was about to be dismissed.

Yesterday Congress amazingly buckled and cancelled the two men’s candidatures. The party, headed by Sonia Gandhi, was reacting to protests that spread across the Sikhs’ home state of Punjab in support of Jarnail Singh’s shoe-throwing.

So who has come well out of the shoe throwing so far?

– Certainly Jarnail Singh, a usually quiet 40-year old journalist, who became a national hero yesterday, and who then reacted well, almost apologising for what he did and saying “impulse got the better of me”.

– Also Chidambaram, who said he understood Singh’s motivations and asked for no more action to be taken. He also admitted that Congress governments had not done enough to charge those responsible for the 1984 killings – a specially significant statement coming from a home minister.

– But surely not the Congress leadership which, even though it took the right decision in dropping the two men, should not have chosen them in the first place – and now looks weak and indecisive by cancelling their candidatures when they suddenly became a general election liability.

There is much that is wrong with the way that India’s government’s political parties, government and legal systems work. The Sikh protests have led to extensive television and newspaper discussion of these problems – not only of the way that those accused in the 1984 killings have gone free, but also of how people have rarely been charged successfully for other outrages such as the Gujarat 2002 massacre.

That is surely good.


  1. Ah the Heeling effect of politics – at last, politics with sole!

  2. Look at what the sikhs rejoice at today, Tytler and Sajjan Kumar not getting tickets to contest elections..forget about getting convictions for crimes committed against the sikhs which I think we will all shamefully forget about anyway. Its like the being the victims of terror ..that you get treated so badly that acts of normalcy seem like mercy and goodness to you. ’84 riots affect the sikh psyche very deeply and nothing but concrete action on part of any government will heal those wounds. So as a sikh, I hang my head in shame and despair and if I were to choose the party to vote for only on this basis I would choose no one

  3. I must say I was getting ballistic at the idea that these two men had been given a ticket to contest. Why were they chosen in the first place. Any communal riots affects every decent Indian. Isn’t it time contestants with any stigma at all should be barred from ruling our country. We want clean, decent candidates.

  4. Pity that it needed a shoe to get Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar the boot. Technically/legally they have not been convicted, but sentiments on them have been so adverse for 25 years — and not just amongst Sikhs — that it would have been better to have yielded to public opinion earlier rather than conceded after this bizarre incident.

  5. I say this because many politicians and political parties deserve to be publicly humiliated for the appalling, self-seeking, and often corrupt way that they have run the country for years.

    Are the politicians in China less so?

    thanks Humphrey – I imagine not, but you know China better than I do – how would shoe-throwing be treated by the Beijing leadership? je

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