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Above photo - by Carlos Osorio.

Our Heroes

Toronto Fetes The Lion of Delhi



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 India's 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 seventh annual Spinning Wheel Film 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. Jarnail has been offered money, 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 [with a daily circulation of approx. 3.2 million], 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 two of the main people accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms in northern India, which killed thousands of Sikhs. Some have put the number of dead at 3,000 in India‘s capital alone.

The pogroms followed the assassination of then-prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards [in response to the military assault she had ordered of The Golden Temple in Amritsar, which also killed thousands of innocent men, women and children.].

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

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

That's when, Jarnail 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, Jarnail 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 he 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."

Jarnail Singh, meanwhile, has lost his job, but has been offered others. He is working on a book about the riots [called "I ACCUSE", soon to be released both in English and Punjabi.]

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."


[Sardar Jarnail Singh will be honoured at the Gala - Friday night, Sep 25 - of The Spinning Wheel Film Festival, where 27 films will be screened, and a number of exhibits are open to the public. It starts at 6.00 pm on Friday, September 25, 2009. The festival continues till late Sunday, September 27, 2009, at The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. For more info and tickets: ]

The above article, in its original form, was first published in The Toronto Star. It has been edited for

September 24, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: Ajaib Singh (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), September 24, 2009, 11:31 AM.

This is exactly what we need with respect to all politicians. Once elected to public office, how dare they betray the trust they've been given and become not only useless but unaccountable. There should be a machine - modelled along the lines of the tennis-ball lobber - where a shoe automatically heads straight for his/head if he/she fails to answer a proper question. Thank you, Jarnail Singh! You are a true hero for people everywhere. The Bushes and Chidambarams ... and Tytlers ... of the world, beware! Power to the people!

2: Gurdip (Nairobi, Kenya), September 24, 2009, 12:58 PM.

Well done! Chakkde phate, Bhaji! Good to see that those incidents with our Sikh brothers and sisters isn't forgotten. Good man!

3: Ibadat Singh Gill (U.S.A.), September 24, 2009, 3:42 PM.

I was just thinking about Jarnail Singh, yesterday, on my way home from work. At the time of the incident, he became an instant inspiration and hero to the Panth. I pictured his face emblazoned on t-shirts in the same manner as Che's. However, while thinking about him yesterday, I felt disheartened because I'd heard the newspaper he worked for (for many years) got rid of him. I wondered if he was ok - and whether we'd ever hear from him again. And then, this afternoon, I sign on to, and there he is! Thank you, Spinning Wheel, for honoring a true Sikh hero.

4: Inni Kaur (Fairfield, CT, U.S.A.), September 24, 2009, 8:02 PM.

When ordinary people do extraordinary things which inspire millions - they are the people that need to be honoured. Thank you for honouring Jarnail Singh. Well-deserved!

5: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.), September 25, 2009, 5:07 PM.

Even though I am in bliss here and now (Great arrticle! Dr. I.J. Singh ji), I wish I were in Toronto this evening. Missing being at the SWFF and meeting the 'Lion of Delhi'. Please tell him that his Lioness sister sends him blessings. And Best Wishes for the most successful SWFF as well. Angad and I will be thinking of the Toronto family.

6: N. Singh (Canada), September 25, 2009, 6:00 PM.

Jarnail Singh ji - THANK YOU for doing what you did and for caring so much. The Spinning Wheel Film Festival - Thank you for honouring Jarnail Singh and for the work you are doing!

7: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, U.S.A.), September 26, 2009, 1:31 PM.

Thank you, Jarnail Singh ... and and The Spinning Wheel Film Festival too - for honouring him. Besides these honours, hope someone has offered a job to Jarnail Singh for his dedication and standing up for the Sikh cause.

8: Jaibir (Kolkata, India ), September 29, 2009, 2:04 PM.

"Jarnail Singh" - the name has always created difficulties for the Congress party ... lol ... Rock on, dude!

9: Tejwant (U.S.A.), October 02, 2009, 10:52 PM.

As the saying goes, "Good actions need no reasons but they create awareness and awaken the dormant psyche, whereas bad actions need a lot of justifications". The great action by Jarnail Singh did awaken the dormant Sikhi psyche which made the Congress party realize their blunder of having candidates like Sajjan and Tytler. All thanks to one courageous Sikh who was looking for answers to the genocide of 1984. All the humanity which encompasses the universal Sikhi message of justice for all salutes you, Jarnail Singh.

10: admds (India), October 21, 2009, 1:36 AM.

I salute you, veerji. We all feel bad remebering '84 but when it comes to action, we all become practical and go and hide in our homes ... the step you have taken will suddenly give us courage to stand up and be counted. Thanks, veer ji. Waheguru tuhade te mehar karan!

11: Gurpreet (New York, U.S.A.), November 03, 2009, 6:03 PM.

It's a shame that it's been 25 years and justice has not been done. Kudos to for remembering Jarnail Singh's brave act. I wish this could inspire Dr. Manmohan Singh to do a little more for the Sikh community. I am looking forward to his visit to the White House this month to see what kind of an impact he makes. I hope and pray that he is able to finish off his wonderful career by doing something that would truely make him a Sikh legend.

12: Harpreet Singh Banwait (Chandigarh, Punjab), November 04, 2009, 1:52 AM.

Well done, Jarnail Singh ji! We really need justice to have faith in India. We are happy to stay with India but not at the cost of such injustices. They should understand that we Sikhs know how to sacrifice and die for a spiritual cause, even though we are 2%. We still are 2% of 1.1 billion and each one of us is equivalent to a legion. It's in our blood. All we are asking for is justice.

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