"Shoegate" Hero Jarnail Singh Finally Speaks Out

When I hurled a shoe, I had no doubt that some kind of action would be taken against me.

When I hurled a shoe on India's Home Minister P. Chidambram at a press conference in New Delhi on April 7, 2009 in protest against the Sikh massacre of 1984, I had no doubt that some kind of action would be taken against me.

When the government didn't take any legal action against me, I was pleasantly surprised, though I was aware that it was the election season and they could not afford to put me in jail.

While interrogating me, however, they confiscated my Press Information Bureau Card and have refused to return it, to date.

And now, most recently, I have been fired from my job. I have no doubt whatsoever that it was done under pressure from the government.

When my employers decided to terminate my services, this fact was confirmed to me verbally and off-the-record.

I have no complaints against the newspaper that I was working for ... the Dainik Jagran. I do accept that I had violated the ethics of journalism and it is not inappropriate that I be punished for it. A journalist must uphold the ethics of his profession.

But the larger issue is somewhat different.

I had dishonoured my profession (though I have no doubt it was the only way left to remind the government about its code of conduct ... they had left us no choice!) and I was duly punished with due alacrity ... that is, within three months of the incident.

But, what about those who continue to go scot free for the last 25 years for the crimes of mass murder they committed in 1984? When will they punished?

The police, by joining hands with the mobs, desecrated their own code of conduct and fundamental principles.

The Kusum Lata Committee and the Nanavati Commission asked for action against more than 150 police officers, but nothing was done, ever. Why?

By offering, instead, ministerial posts to some of the ring leaders, the government violated its own dignity.

The witnesses appearing before the judiciary were forced to change their accounts under pressure, but those in power did not bat an eyelid. For 25 years, these people have violated the principles they were supposed to uphold, and this would have continued unabated if the shoe not been hurled.

I have the moral courage to accept that a journalist should have not crossed his line of trust and welcome the punishment it entails.

But those who murdered or instigated the murder of 5000 innocent Sikhs are still free. Despite recommendations by various commissions, why has no FIR (charge) been filed, to date, against any of the accused leaders and instigators of the murdering mobs?

It is ironic that, 25 years later, the "inquiries" into the crimes by the authorities are still in progress, even as the witnesses are conveniently dying off, one by one.

Bhai Surinder Singh Granthi, the main witness against Jagdish Tytler, passed away the other day.

When will justice be delivered, if at all??

This November 1 will mark the 25th anniversary of the massacres. The tears in the eyes of the victims haven't dried. The widows still remember the horror of how their husbands, brothers and sons were killed in broad daylight in the country's capital, in full sight of idling police officers, with burning tyres put around the necks of the victims. The mobs are reported to have taunted in chant and song: "Look at the Sikh performing Bhangra," while encircling each victim.

The widows and orphans are still waiting for justice.

I am saying all this after having recently visited them in the so-called Widow's Colony. Time has not reduced the pain by even one percent; instead, they continue to suffer the torment of that tragedy, every day, every night.

It's stunning that more than the one hundred thousand Indians directly involved in the killing of more than 3000 innocent Sikhs in Delhi alone are still roaming free in the Capital of this "democracy," without fear of being held accountable for their crimes.

Is that the reason why Delhi's crime graph is rising by the day?

This isn't a personal issue for me, Jarnail Singh. I am not even an issue. I don't care even if I'm hanged for my wrongdoing.

I want the perpetrators of the 1984 murders to listen.

We Sikhs are not ones who can or will succumb under pressure. Pressures and actions against us will only add to our strength and determination to fight against injustice.

This incident is merely a symbolic reminder to our Insensitive System of the glaring truth that it's getting increasingly impossible for victims to seek justice in a straightforward manner.

Isn't it true that in India, political leaders can instigate violence in the name of caste, religion and region at any time they wish to, and get away with it without any repercussions?

Isn't it true that punishment meted out to those accused of perpetrating the 1984 riots would've forced the rioters in Gujarat and Kandhamal to think twice before letting loose their mayhem only a few years later, for fear of severe penalty?

It was only after I hurled the shoe that the two principal 1984 accused - Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler - were denied election tickets for contesting the Lok Sabha (Lower House of India's Parliament) Elections. These are the two individuals against whom the Nanavati Commission has asked for criminal proceedings to be launched.

Why wasn't the refusal to grant them party tickets done earlier, on moral grounds?

It was 22 years after the Nanavati Commission's observations that the wheels of justice seemed to have started to move ever so slowly, with the purported investigation by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation).

But then, it simply threw its hands in the air within two years and started recommending closure of the case. Why?

Now, the CBI is back to recording statements of other witnesses of the massacre - after the shoe-throwing incident!

The question is: Why did it want to close the matter earlier? It shows they were conspiring to close the cases just before elections. Only one day after the congress tickets were denied to Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remarked at a press conference in the Women's Press Club:

"Better late than never" ("der aayad durust aayad")!

Does that mean that he was waiting for me to hurl a shoe and provide him an opportunity to deny tickets? Only after this incident - now dubbed "Shoegate" by the media - did the Home Minister say he understood the trauma of the Sikhs and acknowledged that justice had not been accorded to them.

This is the same Minister who, a week earlier, had made a statement saying: "I am happy that my friend Jagdish Tytler has been exonerated by the CBI!".

The Home Minister belongs to the entire nation and if he expresses his happiness on the acquittal of one accused of mass murder - while a ton of evidence to the contrary stares him in the face - then, what will happen to the governance in this country?

It was this statement which forced me to press him with questions about the 1984 Sikh massacres, which he quickly and brusquely brushed aside.

Isn't this anarchy - the refusal of our government to its job, the very reason they have been elected by the populace?

That is, if people protest according to accepted norms, and the system doesn't even move, doesn't even flinch, while sticking to its wanton and callous recklessness. The shoe incident showed us that our system needs to be more sensitive to the needs of its citizens, without having us resort to extreme measures.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is an upright, honest and capable man and deserves to lead this country. But he has asked Sikhs to forget 1984.

Is forgetting the massacre a solution? Will the Muslims be asked to forget about the 2002 Gujarat riots?

Will the same advice be given to the Christians of Kandhamal and the Hindus of Bangaldesh? The Jews of Europe? The Palestinians?

The only way a grievance is redressed is by delivering justice.

Sikhs are proud citizens of this country, and are second to none. In fact, they have given far more than their fair share to liberate, build and protect this nation.

The government should uphold justice; forgetting is not a solution or an option!

Our daily Sikh prayer - ardaas - reminds us about our glorious history of sacrifice and martyrdom. Don't ever ask us to forget.

Yes, if it were a natural calamity, then indeed it would be a good course of action. But not when mass crimes have been committed against the innocent by members of the government. 

The Prime Minister should come out strongly against this injustice. He should have stood for this cause as steadfastly as he stood for the Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement. He is in a position to deliver justice. His one step or one sentence can correct the course of history.

Looks like we'll simply have to continue to fight for a system that learns to act, irrespective of a Jarnail Singh hurling a shoe.

You can reach me directly at: [email protected]


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