Jarnail Singh, now a famous Sikh journalist, was on 7th April 2009 thrust into the limelight when he hurled a shoe at Home Minister, Mr. P. Chidambaram at a press conference. Mr Singh alleges that this was due to Home minister's lack of response to questions that Mr Singh had put to the minister regarding the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) "clean chit" for the Congress leader, Jagdish Tytler in connection with the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
The fire-storm of national media attention, caused by his moment of anger, resonated with Sikhs around India and the world and caused the Congress Party to question the wisdom of supporting Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar as congress candidates from Lok Sabha 2009 elections. Both were eventually dropped by the party for the 2009 election campaign.
After refusing the various rewards offered to him, including a job as a media specialist with the SGPC, Jarnail Singh was shocked to have been sacked from his job with the Hindi daily Dainik Jagran , three months after the incident.
Mr Chidambaram was addressing a press conference at AICC Headquarters at Akbar Road, New Delhi, where he announced the party’s decision to start a campaign against terrorism, when Jarnail Singh, with adab (politeness) asked Chidambaram, "Sir, Is the CBI (unaudable) under pressure to give clean chit to Mr. Tytler, before the election…".
Responding to Jarnail Singh's question, Mr Chidambaram said, "First of all let me make it clear that the CBI is not under the Home Ministry. To my knowledge neither the Home Ministry nor any ministry of the government had put any pressure on the CBI. The CBI has only given a report to the court. It is for the court to accept or reject, or ask the CBI to further investigate the matter. Let us be patient, let us wait for the court to decide," he then said, " sorry, sorry", and pointed to select another journalist, as Jarnail Singh could barely be heard saying, "There is no justice for Sikhs…" .
Trying to cut Singh off, Chidambaram, holding his palm out said, "no arguments, you are using this forum....", when Singh shouted out, "I protest" and then bent over to pick up his right shoe (a white Reebok 'Trainer' that he had already taken off) which he then lobbed, underhanded in a gentle arc, far to the right of Chidambaram. Leaning slightly to his left, Chidambaram turned his head to watch the shoe go by. He then turned to look at Singh, with a smile breaking on his face. (Most likely he had realized, given the famous shoe "attack" on President George Bush, that this moment, captured on cameras from several angles, would be immortalised around the world.) The shoe was clearly not intended to do any harm to Chidambaram and Jarnail Singh, a well known and well respected journalist by all in the room, had immediately sat down.
His action, however, had caused a flutter in the hall, with cameras flashing, two men walked to the center of the room and pulled Mr. Singh up by one arm and held him, as a composed Chidambaram said to the men who held him, "Take him from the room … gently, gently."
"I forgive him...let not the action of one emotional person hijack the entire press conference. I have answered his question to the best of my ability," Mr. Chidambaram said.
Justice long overdue
Jarnail Singh was asked a few questions by the media as he was being led away by the police, and he apologized for his actions, but he also added that he was upset that justice had not been done in the case of the [1984 anti Sikh riots]]. The newspaper he worked for also apologized.
Singh was taken to Tughlaq Road Police Station where he was let-off after questioning because the government decided not to press charges.
Asked if he could have used some other manner to protest, he answered, "For the last 25 years this has been happening. So what other method is left (to protest)."
The police said that no complaint was lodged with them and Chidambaram said that the journalist should be forgiven.
A few Sikh bodies came out in support of Singh and even offered him an award.
The man has made his mark and shown the might of a Punjabi "Jutti" (shoe). It is time for the other politicians to wag there tails to realise that interference in investigation, justice and road rolling the witnesses of crime will not help them, even after 25 years.
If the fate of attackers on religion has to be seen to be believed, watch the clip below and the dozens of other clips on the incident on youtube:
Jarnail Singh on this incident
Several men then moved to take hold of both of the Sikh Journalist's arms and rushed him out of the meeting, with Chidambaram telling them, "Gently, Gently". Interestingly enough Mr. Singh seemed to be just as shocked at his action, as were the rest of the people in attendance.
Those who knew Singh were quick to express their surprise, describing him as a clam person of deeply held religious beliefs. Mr. Singh was quick to say, “I admit my method was wrong, but the sentiment was right. I do not wish that any journalist should behave in this manner.”
No doubt the scene brought to mind the recent 'shoe toss' that was 'heard 'round the world', when an Iraqi journalist tossed both his shoes at President George Bush while he was on a State visit to Iran in his last few days as the US President.
However the brief bit of astonished anger, resounded with many Sikhs and others around the world who have waited through many years for some of the 'king pins' of those days of bloody murders to be brought to justice. One group even offered a princely sum for the shoe.
Stunned Congress Reaction
Initially, congress was reluctant to withdraw ticket to Tytler. But after this shoe throwing incident, Congress party indicated that they were reviewing the candidatures of Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar. But Tytler was of the view that this issue is not going to affect his candidature from North East Delhi in Loksabha 2009 elections.
Congress calculated politically that all the media controversy created after the shoe throwing incident could make it lose many seats especially in Punjab. Fearing further controversy, Congress dropped both Tytler and Sajjan Kumar as congress candidates from Lok Sabha 2009 elections. Jadgish Tytler accused the media of victimizing him through a media trial. He also blamed the Shiromani Akali Dal and his enemies within the Congress party for scuttling his nomination.
After Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar were dropped as candidates for Lok Sabha polls by Congress, Prime minister Manmohan Singh said he was neither informed nor consulted over CBI's clean chit given to Tytler in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case
When asked to give details about his life, Jarnail Singh hesitated as according to him, "he had not done anything great"; but after some insistence from Harpreet Singh of SikhiWiki (Punjab), Jarnail Singh gave the following details about his life:
- "I am 36 years old. My wife is Gurmeet Kaur; she was teacher at Baru Sahib before marriage; we have two children; 7 year old, Jujhar Singh and two year old MeharGur Kaur. Unfortunately, my father passed away some time ago and is no more. My inspiration is my mother whose name is Mata Naseeb Kaur."
- "I did a course of journalism from YMCA in 1995 and afterwards started working in the world of media and journalism. At the time of Sikh Massacre, I was 11 year old and I was writing my memoirs. As a defence correspondent, I have travelled all over india; I have been to Russia and America. I am a simple person who believes faithfully in Guru Granth Sahib. I am proud to be a Sikh but I also respect other religions too."
Jarnail Singh was 11 years old and playing cricket outside his house at Lajpat Nagar in Delhi, when one day in 1984, the looting and killing started after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh body guards.
His mother promptly locked him and his siblings in a room. The family scraped through the three days of rioting without any major incident except for his brother being manhandled.
Later while in college, Singh looked up old newspaper files for stories about the riots. He says that only one English newspaper and its Hindi sister publication had done any thorough reporting on the riots of 1984. He decided to be a journalist as he felt there was a need for one among the Sikhs. He enrolled himself in a course at the YMCA.
This he blurts out when asked if he was happy with the way the media has covered the delay in justice to the riot victims in the past decades:
- "After a painful wait of 25 years for justice, some kind of protest was needed to remind everyone that the hearts of the victims are still bleeding; mere compensations cannot heal their wounds; justice needs to be done. In contrast the perpetrators were rewarded with ministries and even after the Nanavati Commission's report they got tickets. Not only that the CBI decided to close down the files in these cases; they were pouring salt on our wounds and thinking Sikhs are weak and don't have courage to stand against this injustice. My shoe was not against Home Minister P. Chidambram, but against the constant denial of justice. Its true that Mr. Chidambram's remarks of happiness, on Tytler’s exoneration, triggered the passion in my heart, but later on he himself accepted that ‘enough people have not been punished’. It's very honest acceptance."
- "If the oldest party woke up after my shoe and booted them out then its not my fault. Politically a right step has been taken, but still the guilty need to be punished by the courts."
The father of two little children, Singh has been with various newspapers for the last 15 years. His career began with a six-month internship with the "Sandhya Times" in 1995 followed by job as a reporter with "Amar Ujala". Then he found himself freelancing for some time before he joined a multilingual daily called "Aksharbharati" which has since ceased publication.
He has been with the "Dainik Jagaran" since 1999 and was until his dismissal, a special correspondent, covering mainly defence. A colleague says that Singh may have had some painful link with the riots, though feels that his act was impulsive on that fateful day when he threw his shoe.
He has been covering defence, agriculture, and the Election Commission, besides news from states like Punjab and Himachal Pradesh for his paper. He recently did stories on the nuclear deal between India and USA. As far as the 1984 riots are concerned, Jarnail says he wrote whenever he could at the time.
Friends and family say the aggression Jarnail showed at the time is unlike him. “He is a very calm person and a very religious one too. He goes to Gurdwara every day. There must have been something that happened at that place and time, that he was so angered,” said Aman, a friend of the journalist, now mired in controversy.
Jarnail Singh too felt he could have reacted differently. “I admit my method was wrong, but the sentiment was right. I do not wish that any journalist should behave in this manner,” said the journalist by his own admission.
Jarnail Singh Honoured by SGPC
The meeting between Singh and Makkar took place at the Information Centre at the Harmandir Sahib Complex. During this meeting, Makkar presented Singh with a job in the position of a media advisor to the SGPC. However, Singh felt committed to his current duties and could not accept the job. Singh felt a great sense of honor to be offered a Panthic position, but decided to decline because his present employer has not let him go from his present duty. In a written statement addressed to the public he wrote that he would like to continue his profession as a journalist for the "Dainik Jagran".
In addition to refusing the job position offered by Makkar, Singh stated he would not accept any cash-reward or funding for doing his duty as a Sikh and as a journalist. He mentioned that if anyone wants to offer money they should do so to the 1984 riot victims and their families. Many sceptics have stated that Singh's actions were pre-meditated for political purposes. But Singh has stated, “My act was not pre-meditated as it was [an] emotional outburst and protest against injustice melted out to the victims of [the] 1984 anti Sikh riots.” It was this shout for justice which has given Jarnail Singh immense honor within the Panth.
After the meeting, Singh was presented with a robe of honor (Siropa) due to his courageous efforts to highlight the plight of the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms that were orchestrated by Tytler, a congress select for the upcoming elections.
Several Sikh organisations pledged a Rs 2 lakh "reward" for Jarnail Singh for his "heroism". "He has represented the agony and resentment of the community. For this, Sikh organisations have decided to honour him with Rs 2 lakh," said Manjinder Singh Sirsa, Akali Dal leader and municipal councillor. The Delhi unit of Shiromani Akali Dal, which initially said it would give Rs one lakh to the scribe as legal aid, later said it would "felicitate" him for the act.
The Damdami Taksal Amritsar has also announced the reward and the 1984 riots affected people has put an amount of 5 lac on the shoe which was thrown. Sikh political parties had offered Jarnail tickets to contest the Lok Sabha elections but he had refused.
Jarnail Singh Sacked
Jarnail Singh was sacked on July 2, 2009 Wednesday, about three months after he threw a shoe at Union home minister P Chidambaram. His PIB (Press Information Bureau) card had been seized by government. This is a conspiracy to destroy his journalistic career. Singh said the newspaper was under pressure from the United Progressive Alliance government and the Congress. "Why is Jagran terminating my services now?
The incident is three months old. They should have fired me then," said Singh. "They were waiting for the election results. Now, after the Congress came back to power, they have terminated me," he said.
“Now I feel that I am being victimised, punished for raising my voice against the injustice of 1984 and the CBI’s and the government’s unwillingness to prosecute those who were responsible for it”, Jarnail said. He said he was even more resolute now.
He continued his fight, he is focusing on writing a book on the 1984 riots, the true stories of different families who suffered a lot due to that riots. Let us all to boost and promote Jarnail Singh's courage, his situation and his book, coming in the near future. He is the first person to take step, many Sardars are sitting on top seats but no one even show finger, he showed boot from Sikhs to the government, due to that he lost his job, but he is more determined now and he is surviving. He loves Sikhi and has the passion to work for Sikhi and the human rights of Sikhs.
Book By Singh
Jarnail Singh is going to write a book on anti Sikh riots which shows all the truth of the scene. the book is under build. This is also another wonderful attempt by him, revealing the truth like killing of sikhs, the whole plans, and covered various aspects which was not covered by 1984 or later media. Do purchase the book, his contact is firstname.lastname@example.org