Has the shoe become mightier than the pen?
Work is worship. But does that mean a journalist leave his footwear outside before attending something as regular as a press briefing?
Well, that’s one of the suggestions being floated as 25 years after more than 3000 Sikhs were killed in the aftermath of the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Sikh anger bubbled to the top yet again.
The reporter wanted to register his protest against the clean chit given to Delhi Congress leader Jagdish Tytler, accused of inciting mobs during the 1984 anti- Sikh riots.
The flying footwear missed the home minister but seems to have left a mark on the Congress conscience.
There are now reports that a nervous Congress party is rethinking the decision to give party tickets to Tytler and fellow accused Sajjan Kumar for the upcoming general elections. They’re both sitting MPs.
But Tytler says his election campaign is not under any cloud and will contest the polls from the north east Delhi constituency.
But Tuesday’s incident has opened a can of worms. While opposition political parties pounced on the opportunity to corner the Congress govt, the journalistic community faced an uneasy role-reversal – answering questions rather than seeking answers.
Many reporters, including those present at the press conference at the Congress headquarters, are feeling let down. They say their job is to report the news, and not make the news.
Some have gone to the extent of saying such incidents break the trust between those holding the press conferences and the press itself.
But larger and more pertinent questions have emerged.
Some say Singh’s act was symptomatic of a deeper anguish, a deep anger within the Sikh community.
Are the fissures too deep for time to provide the eternal healing touch?
The Congress party insists ’84 was an instance of national outrage. Within 48 hours of taking oath as PM, Indira Gandhi’s son did try to douse the fire of communal strife. But the same Rajiv Gandhi also said “when a big tree falls, the Earth trembles….”
A similar sentiment was echoed by Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in March 2002 after more than 2000 people were killed, a majority of them Muslims, in communal violence.
Asked about the riots, Modi quoted Newton’s third law – “every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” a quip seen by many as Modi’s justification for Hindu anger post the Godhra train carnage that left nearly 60 Hindu pilgrims charred to death.
But spare a thought for Jarnail the journalist? Sikh political party Akali Dal has already hailed Singh as a hero. Some other Sikh groups want to give him a reward of 200,000 rupees.
A repentant Singh is a reluctant hero. He asks why will he accept a reward for an act he’s apologised for, clarifying his method may have been wrong, but the issue he raised was not.
What transpired on Tuesday also brings to the fore another question: should journalists be activists too?
The jury is still out on whether Singh had planned the attack. But this is definitely not a first.
US President had to duck shoes hurled at him in Baghdad during a farewell visit to Iraq in December 2008 and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao evaded a protester’s shoe as he delivered a speech at Cambridge University in February 2009. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was similarly targeted during a visit to the north-western city of Urumia.
Wen was branded a dictator while Bush was called a dog by the Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi who was left to cool his heels in prison for three years. That sentence has now been slashed to one year.
Police did not press charges and the home minister who wanted Singh to be removed “gently” from the press conference says he has forgiven him too.
But Dainik Jagran is set to initiate disciplinary action against its defence correspondent.
Will Jarnail get the boot or will the journalist survive to wield the pen again?