Jarnail Singh a correspondent with the noted vernacular daily ‘Dainik Jagran’ took cue from Iraqi journalist Muntadhar–al-Zaidi when he hurled a shoe at Home Minister P. Chidambaram at a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday, though the minister ducked out of the line of fire, he ordered Singh to be taken away……gently.
Chidambaram was speaking to correspondents at the 24 Akbar Road headquarters of the Congress party, when the incident occurred. The proceedings were to revolve around terrorism and the bomb attacks that rocked the northeastern state of Assam on Monday.
Chidamabaram was referring to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots when Singh, asked him a question regarding the CBI clean-chit to party leader Jagdish Tytler.
When Chidambaram parried the query, an incensed Jarnail Singh – a Sikh – threw a shoe at him.
The minister dodged and the shoe narrowly missed him.
A momentarily shocked Home Minister almost immediately asked reporters to get back to business before directing that the reporter be removed from the conference room.
“Let not the action of one emotional person hijack the entire press conference. I have answered his questions to the best of my ability,” said minister Chidambaram.
He added that he had “forgiven” Singh.
“Please take him away,” the minister said, later adding, “gently, gently” as Congress party workers immediately took the white-turbaned journalist out, reported IBN.
He was taken away by police but was later let off and no case was registered against him.
Speaking to the media after the incident, Jarnail Singh, whose attitude was no less cavalier than that of his namesake – a key leader of Sikh separatism in the 1980s – said, he did not regret his action.
“How can he (Chidambaram) happy when one community faces injustice? They were stopping me from talking. I don’t think I have done the right thing but the issue called for it,” he was quoted as saying by CNN IBN.
The main Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was prompt in condemning Singh’s action but added that it reflected the public outrage.
“I don’t think it was a right way of expressing his point but it shows it was a big issue,” said party spokesman Balbir Punj.
The Congress party has been in the eye of a huge political storm since the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) gave a clean chit to party leader Jagdish Tytler, who has faced allegations of involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh violence that saw New Delhi crash to its lowest ebb in the aftermath of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination at the hands of her Sikh guards.
Though, the Congress has maintained that it had in no way influenced the decision of the federal agency, the claim has found few takers amongst India’s minority Sikhs.
Similar shoe throwing by Iraqi journalist Muntadhar Al Zaidi had recently shot the Al Arabiya journalist to world-wide fame after he targeted then US President George Bush with his shoes at a press conference during his final visit to the country.
Zaidi was later arrested and sentenced to prison, but his act earned him a huge following across the world, his employers too stood firm behind Zaidi, but in Jarnail Singh’s case that is highly unlikely.