Indian Elections '09: Where The Shoe Pinches

When Muntadhar al-Zaidi hurled his shoes at the then US President George Bush, little did he know that his method of getting a point across would soon become viral across continents.

In India too, the trend seems to have caught on. For indeed, the humble footwear has become the preferred weapon of choice among a section of Indians who wish to voice their resentment and be heard over the din of political platitudes being mouthed by leaders in the face of the Assembly Elections.

First, Jarnail Singh (photo here), a journalist, hurled one of his sneakers at the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram. He was upset at the CBI giving a clean chit to Jagdish Tytler, one of the key accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case. Tytler had by then already been nominated as the Congress candidate from North-East Delhi, a step that had angered the Sikh community that had been waiting for over 25years for some kind of closure.

Rajeev Chandrashekhar wrote in his blog:

Jarnail Singh and his shoe have woken us all from our slumber and reminded us of the crimes committed 25 years ago, in our Nations Capital against the Sikh community – at a time when there was no Television coverage and media as we know it today – a crime for which in Chidambaram’s words “not enough people have been punished”.

The shoe missed it's mark, but the protest registered. It triggered off a larger expression of anti-Congress sentiments among the Sikh populace, a sentiment that soon gained momentum. Finally, the Congress bowed to public pressure and withdrew the candidatures of Tytler and another similarly accused, Sajjan Kumar, in an attempt to pacify the community's anger.

Sharique wrote about this fall-out in his blog:

Thanks to Muntadar al-Zaidi, the citizen of this world have a new way to vent out their anger. Even though it came very late for George Bush, it came at an appropriate time for the Congress. Jarnail Singh’s act of throwing his Reebok shoes and the subsequent protest from the sikh community has forced the Congress to pull back the candidature of Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar.

However, the shoe did not stop there. Soon shoe-throwing incidents became common fare. Politicians and electoral candidates such as Navin Jindal and BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate, L. K. Advani, each received their share of shoe-ing.

Subhasis C, wrote in his blog:

Zaidi has inspired a new generation of Indians and has taught them how simple and benign shoes can be used against the State power.


Bear in mind that Indian political class’ culture, integrity, commitment is on the wane and worst victims are the millions of countrymen. They have hardly any right to speak against existent discriminations, exploitations, repressions, corruptions and harassments. What can they do except hurling shoes? Recently Congress MP Naveen Jindal and BJP’s projected prime ministerial candidate LK Advani had the taste of same in election meetings. It is said more are on the cards and the politicians are getting nervous witnessing this latest expression of fury. It may be some of protesters are efficient in targeting. What will happen then? Is the Indian mass getting more conscious?

That the act of shoe-throwing had become a symbol of people's expression of frustration with their political leaders was also reflect by Youth ki Awaaz, which said:

At press conferences and political campaigns, throwing shoe has emerged as a sign of being aware yet neglected.

However, discussions also veered towards the rights and wrongs of the political system and also of the action itself.

Speak India Blog opined:

Had Jarnail Singh or another frustrated individual gone the wrong way a bullet would have been in the place of Shoe. Is the current government converting humane people like Jarnail into frustrated individuals who are ready to resort to violence ? I think more than the government it is the polluted politics.
The answers to justice may not lie in throwing shoes but lies in coherent action and action(or initiative) has been taken by Jarnail Singh. Right or Wrong is up to you to decide.

Youth ki Awaaz had this to say:

Flinging shoes at known and senior politicians is certainly unethical and must be dealt with seriously. Being against someone or protesting is not bad, but the way the protest is carried out must be kept in mind. One must never cross the limits. Their are a number of ways through which we can address a person, but certainly not by throwing a shoe.

This act must be done away with.

Politicians have now become wary of the very people they are supposed to be representatives/leaders of. Fearing a shoe-attack, they are taking preventive measures at their meetings and rallies. According to Kamla Bhatt:

Bewildered politicians are scrambling to find effective solutions to protect themselves. According to various reports Indian politicians are seeking security measure to help them from these flying weapons of mass destruction dubbed as Shoegate by Indian media.

Perhaps, it is a wake-up call that the masses are no longer willing to be passive and detached but wish to be heard loud and clear. However, as this tweeter message points out,

Sudeshp: What's up (with) the shoe throwing in India??? People if you are so dissatisfied go out and vote for the right candidate in the elections.

This post is part of the Global Voices special coverage on Indian Elections 2009


  • The non-party journalist-Jarnail Singh-

    My articles including, No Punishment for ‘The Sikh Carnage1984’ To the Culprits, the Reason behind the Psyche of State Terrorism’ since long, reminding to all governments of India to address the grievances and the demands of Sikhs as were promised before independence of India and provide justice for the, intentionally and deliberately, committed unbearable excesses against Sikhs in so named independent India but all in vain.
    The non-party journalist like me was perturbed to notice no action being taken by the government (s) even after the Sikh riot victims had been waiting for justice for 25 years and send a strong signal and reminder as Jarnail Singh rightly said: ” My method (of throwing a shoe) could be wrong, but not my cause. Balbir Singh Sooch, Advocate, Ludhiana

  • No body should across the lines being set in Jarnail Singh’s statement(s) to take advantage of dramatic shoe attack on Home Minister P. Chidambaram painfully in violation of the ethics of his profession for a justifiable cause by him.
    To maintain the balance between the ethics and a justifiable cause not so easy and is always painful.
    Let only Jarnail Singh explain the pain and he rightly asked political parties to come out with a law against communal violence.
    I am happy that Jarnail Singh is neither belonging to any party nor echoing any political line as a journalist but he did it for the right cause in face of injustice to Sikhs affected by the planned 1984 violence continuously for three days after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
    Balbir Singh Sooch-Sikh Vichar Manch, Ludhiana

  • “Khoon Ka Badla Khoon Se Lenge” was the order of day. On the DD, all and any could easily hear these shouts, inciting (or imploring) those day’s Congress Men/Women/Babas and Babes. “Identifying Sikhs and killing them started, from AIIMS in Delhi where body of Indira was kept. By late evening of 31st, Massacre started and spread fast to all Delhi and then to other parts as well, as far as North East.
    Invariably, ‘modus-operandi’ was same all over the places. Sikhs; dragged out from their houses by ‘Congress Goons’, poured petrol/kerosene on them and set on fire. Burning Tires; slipped on their heads. Sikh’s shops/houses looted and then burnt. Over 3000, (some quote as high as 5000+) Sikhs killed in three days. Just have a look at who ‘all’ were in power, then.
    The President : Giani Zail Singh
    Prime Minister : Rajiv Gandhi
    Home Minister : P V Narismha Rao
    All Congress men thus ’secular to the core’!”
    No Punishment for ‘The Sikh Carnage1984’ To the Culprits, the Reason behind the Psyche of State Terrorism’

  • Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha Rao, who was commonly known as P. V. Narasimha Rao, served as the 12th Prime Minister of the Republic of India. He was also commonly referred to as the Chanakya of modern India for his ability to steer tough economic and political legislation through the parliament at a time when he headed a minority government. His years as Prime Minister also saw the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a major right-wing party, as an alternative to the Indian National Congress which had been governing India for most of its post-independence history.
    Chanakya: Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha Rao (P. V. Narasimha Rao) emerged the Bharatiya Janata Party, a major right-wing party, as an alternative to the Indian National Congress. Rao’s term also saw the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya which triggered one of the worst Hindu-Muslim riots in the country since its independence.
    The dealing for political fame with the religion based minorities in India.
    Lalchand Kishenchand Advani known as Lal Krishna Advani-born 8 November 1927
    Atal Bihari Vajpayee -born December 25, 1924
    Do all of you not know that how the State terrorism operating in India?
    “Former President Bill Clinton wrote in the foreword to Madeleine Albright’s book about the massacre in Chithisinghpora: “During my visit to India in 2000, some Hindu militants decided to vent their outrage by murdering 38 Sikhs in cold blood. If I hadn’t made the trip, the victims would probably still be alive. If I hadn’t made the trip because I feared what militants might do, I couldn’t have done my job as president of the United States.”
    Hindu Militants (Central agencies) mean then supported by BJP government of India
    Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesman and former minister Sushma Swaraj in a news conference in New Delhi on Monday (28 July) has accused the government of being connected with the bomb attacks in Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Cogress government mean Central agencies
    What do Varun Gandhi’s pronouncements mean?
    Varun Gandhi promulgates Hindutva fascism
    It will be more appropriate to say and conclude that after getting, ‘The Sikh Warriors and Innocents Killed in a Fraudulent Way’ by *Indira Gandhi, **Rajiv Gandhi, ***Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha Rao (P. V. Narasimha Rao)…….in active connivance with nationally important communal leaders, it seems, Varun Gandhi was made to choose the shortcut to political fame for including him in the mainstream of leaders who are like L.K. Advani and Narendra Modi, known for subscribing to virulent communal views in India.
    The dealing for political fame as usual with the religion based minorities and it is not an isolated case in India.
    From where is to get justice in India?
    Who can differentiate between the Politicians (planted by central agencies) from the Majority and the Minorities in India?
    The thieves, bad characters, rascals, villains, rouges, ruffians and gangsters are headmen of communities (Chor Uchakke Te Chaudhary Gunde Ne Pardhan) rightly said by Daler Mehandi, the prominent singer who faced police brutality for refusing to pay a heavy sum of bribe to the police in bargain for not involving him in criminal case(s).

  • Sikhs had no hope for justice from any government. “The’84 riots are remembered only during the elections,”
    Shoe-hurl opens Sikh riot wounds- All successive governments did was to increase the grants to victims’ families. Nobody spoke of justice.”
    Tytler is seen as one of those who allegedly incited violence in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
    The doctor, now 70, had said, “If you are interested only in money, I will give you both my houses and my money. Are you willing to hand over your son to me?” He averred that all seven MPs and MCD councillors were involved in the massacre.
    The mob burnt down shops and even outlets selling milk allegedly in connivance with the police
    But, fortunately, residents irrespective of their religion came out in a show of solidarity. That prevented casualties,” said Nirmal Singh.
    That’s why the investigating agency gave a clean chit to Tytler.

  • Sajjan and Tytler and others are just small actors and this saffron “Tilak” on their forehead is protecting them. Do you know what I mean?

    “Hundreds of people saw them (Tytler, Sajjan) in action during the riots even if their versions differ now. The Nanavati Commission makes it clear that a riot accused cannot contest an election unless proved innocent and should not be given tickets,” Khushwant Singh said.
    To further justify Khushwant Singh ji, I quote an email received on December 19, 2007 9:57 PM as under:
    “There is tons of evidence out there. If the govt can really provide immunity to their own forces, this can be wrapped up real quick.
    What I mean is, if Govt can come with a plan to forgive all those who come forward with the evidence or as evidence, may it be murderers or witnesses, we can get to the bottom of it real quick. Although insiders have confirmed that Govt exactly knows how it happened, but is afraid to pin point the charge.
    Sajjan and Tytler and others are just small actors and this saffron “Tilak” on their forehead is protecting them. Do you know what I mean?
    We are interested in letting people know the truth, and prevention of this nonsense behavior, again if that can be stooped. Chances are less, because this animal instinct is getting more and more powerful in “Kalyuga”
    The other alternative is to “stay the course” and do your home work: never get deviated from path of kindness and compassion. And Let them go to hell. Sincerely, Amar Duggal”

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.