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Sikh News The Shoe's On The Other Foot

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Jun 1, 2004
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The Shoe's On The Other Foot

A miffed journalist. A flying shoe. A politician who ducks – just barely.
Sound familiar?


An Iraqi reporter hurled two shoes at former president George W. Bush in Baghdad last December. Four months later, a Sikh journalist tossed a shoe at an Indian federal minister in New Delhi.


The ensuing furor made both men poster boys for their communities – all for throwing a shoe.


"I didn't plan it – it just happened," says Jarnail Singh, 36, who hogged the headlines after he threw a white Reebok runner at Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram.


"All I wanted was to highlight a wrong that was done years ago. I don't know how it came to this."


This is a downtown hotel room in Toronto, where he will be honoured at this weekend's annual Spinning Wheel Festival, which showcases films by and about Sikhs.


It's the furthest he has ever been from his hometown of New Delhi, but then nothing has been the same since the April 7 incident. Singh has been offered thousands of rupees, random jobs and even a chance to run in parliamentary elections.


All because he was asking questions – tough questions, he says.
The journalist, working then for Dainik Jagran, a widely read Hindi language newspaper, was at a news conference and he says his question was simple. "All I said was there seemed to be a conspiracy that two politicians accused in the massacre of Sikhs had been exonerated so soon before elections."


He was talking about Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, two former Congress Party ministers who are the main people accused in the 1984 riots in northern India, which killed hundreds of Sikhs. Some have put the number of dead at 3,000.


The riots were triggered by the assassination of then-prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.


Some time before the parliamentary elections in India this May, the two former ministers were nominated to run.


At the news conference, Singh questioned that, too. He says he felt humiliated when Chidambaram accused him of using the "platform for my own agenda."


That's when, Singh says, he took off his shoe – the right one – and hurled it at the home minister. "I did it to remind him of his duty."
Within seconds, Singh was led away by officers. "I wasn't scared," he says. "I knew if they kept me in jail, I would not let anyone post bail. I would protest from (within)."


But Singh was let off without any charges and within days, the Congress Party withdrew the nominations for the two men. Singh became a hero.


Birinder Singh Ahluwalia, co-founder of the film festival, says the journalist's actions are being honoured. "He was courageous and stood up for the community. People are very keen on meeting him."


Singh, meanwhile, has lost his job, but has been offered others. He is working on a book about the riots.


He knows people in Toronto will ask him dozens of questions about the incident. He will tell them about the heat of the moment and offer this advice: "Don't do it."


More than two dozen films will be screened at the Spinning Wheel Festival at the Royal Ontario Museum's Eaton Theatre from tomorrow to Sunday.
 

kds1980

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Apr 4, 2005
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Re: Toronto Fetes The Lion of Delhi

At last something good to hear. Jarnail singh can get much of support in canada which is like a second home to sikhs.
 

Mai Harinder Kaur

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Oct 6, 2006
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Re: Toronto Fetes The Lion of Delhi

"The Lion of Delhi" I'm sure that Bhai Jarnail Singh Ji (India seems to have a problem with these Jarnail Singhs!), who is really a quiet, humble man, has a sheepish smile over that! He does deserve that title, I think. My admiration for him is unbridled!.

Let us also remember the other lions and lionesses of Delhi who, when attacked 25 years ago fought back with whatever they could find, kirpans, frying pans, table legs, even bare fists. We are Sikhs. We did not permit ourselves to be attacked like docile sheep, we fought. This seems to be either unknown or forgotten. Let us remember.

I'm sure Jarnail Singh does.
 

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