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?
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