Sikh scribe chucks shoe at Chidambaram, Congress forgives (Roundup)

April 7th, 2009 - 9:26 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi, April 7 (IANS) In a scene reminiscent of the attack on George W. Bush, a Sikh journalist flung his shoe at Home Minister P. Chidambaram to express disgust over the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) clean chit to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
But unlike in Baghdad, the shoe drama at the Congress headquarters here had an amiable ending with both Chidambaram and his party forgiving the reporter, Jarnail Singh of Dainik Jagran. A sombre Singh insisted his cause was right but admitted that he should not have done what he did.

Singh’s family, relieved that he had been let off by the police without any charges slapped against him, thanked Chidambaram for forgiving him and for not filing a criminal complaint.

Congress spokesman Ashwini Kumar told reporters: “In a democracy, everybody has a right to raise issues but hurling a shoe as an expression of anger is most unfortunate. The home minister has shown magnanimity and ignored the issue. The Congress feels this issue should come to an end.”

An anguished Singh said later: “I only wanted to ask how justice can be done (to Sikhs affected by the 1984 riots) but he (Chidambaram) was not interested in answering the question. I don’t think (what I did) is right but the issue (1984 Sikh riots) is right.”

But he urged journalists not to emulate him, any time.

The journalist’s mother told reporters outside her home: “We were shocked… (What my son did) was wrong. We told him not to do it again and if you have anger, talk it out.”

Barring a few individuals and Sikh organisations, the incident was widely condemned. Even those who sympathised with Singh’s emotional response said the minister should not have been targeted.

Singh had wanted to know if the home ministry, which Chidambaram heads, had pressured the CBI into giving a clean chit to Tytler, one of the seven Congress candidates in Delhi and who has been linked to the 1984 anti-Sikh violence sparked by then prime minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination.

“Neither the home ministry nor any other ministry put any pressure on the CBI,” the minister explained. “The CBI has only given a report. It is for the court to decide whether to accept the report or not.”

Chidambaram requested Singh, described by colleagues as a god fearing and gentle person, not to argue when he persisted in asking further questions.

Singh blurted out “I protest!”, bent down and hurled one of his white sneakers at Chidambaram, missing the target by a few feet but momentarily stunning the minister. It all happened in a few seconds.

Security guards immediately led away Singh, who went out of the media briefing room quietly. He was taken to the Tughlak Road police station but was let off after Chidambaram refused to press any charges.

There has been widespread discontent among Sikhs after the CBI cleared Tytler, who has been accused of inciting mobs to attack and plunder Sikhs in 1984. Tytler claims he is innocent.

Young Sikhs Tuesday empathised with journalist Singh.

“I think it was a very bold and strong step. It not only showed the anguish and frustration of an individual but voiced the sentiments of the entire Sikh community regarding the 1984 riots,” college student Arshdeep Singh said.

Balwinder Singh, a young priest, said the patience of the Sikhs was running out.

More than 3,000 people were killed in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. The bulk of the killings took place in New Delhi where mobs linked to the Congress ruled the streets for over three days.

No one has been sentenced to death for any of the killings.

The Bharatiya Janata Party criticised Singh’s act but it asked the Congress to withdraw Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, another party leader who too is linked to the riots, from the electoral fray.

Punjab’s ruling Akali Dal said the incident “showed our pain and suffering”. Party leader Avtar Singh Hit announced a reward of Rs.200,000 for Singh’s “courage and bravery”.

Senior editors called the shoe attack “unprofessional” and “uncalled for”. K.S. Sachidananda Murthy of the Editors Guild asked journalists not to get emotionally involved when on assignment.

Dainik Jagran said it would take disciplinary action against Singh. It said the attack was “against the tradition, ritual, culture, rules” of the organisation.

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