Kids Corner


Shoegate Hero Jarnail Singh Finally Speaks Out

by JARNAIL SINGH [a exclusive]


This year, 2009, marks the 25th Anniversary of 1984, when horrendous crimes were committed against the Sikhs in the very land of their origin. To commemorate this sad milestone, we at have asked our regular columnists, as well as our contributors and readers, to share with us the impact 1984 has had on their lives. We have also sought out personal stories and anecdotes, in an attempt to capture the inner thoughts and deepest ruminations of those touched in any way by the events of that fateful year, on what 1984 means to each one of them and their loved ones - without going into a litany of facts and figures or a listing of the injustices to date, all of which will invariably be covered with due diligence elsewhere. We intend to present these personal perspectives to you throughout the twelve months of 2009. The following is the 37th in the series entitled "1984 & I".  


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.


July 29, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: Harjot Kaur (Chandigarh, Punjab), July 29, 2009, 11:06 AM.

Dear Jarnail ji: You show the Sikh spirit of chardi kalaa. Who can dare to stand in front of it? You have bigger things coming your way ... to do, to enjoy, to accomplish! God bless you!

2: Satnam Singh (New York, U.S.A.), July 29, 2009, 11:08 AM.

A heartfelt thank you ... we all owe you so much, but it'll be the One who will fully reward you. And it is only that reward that really matters!

3: Harinder (Bangalore, India), July 29, 2009, 11:09 AM.

Sikhs should ask justice from Waheguru alone and no one else. As for the rest ... they are ultimately of little import ... the injustices and the cover-ups.

4: Ajay Singh (Rockville, U.S.A.), July 29, 2009, 11:16 AM.

Awesome! One line that sticks out:"Don't ever ask us to forget!" Thank you.

5: Jarnail Singh (India), July 29, 2009, 1:06 PM.

Blessings of the Guru and of gursikhs gives me strength in my work. Thank you.

6: Nash (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), July 29, 2009, 1:38 PM.

Perhaps we should follow Jarnail Singh's act of civil disobedience in our own countries as well - by writng our ministers, members of parliament and senators to hold the Indian government accountable for this genocide that was instigated and perpetrated by political leaders like Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, and Bollywood actors such as Bachan. The same scoundrels later make fools of the masses by attempting to praise and honour our communities after the fact. An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind, but acts of civil disobedience will shame this government into accepting responsibility. So, I challenge everyone to do their part and contact your respective government officials and make them aware of this isssue and urge them to do something meaningful right away.

7: Ravinder Singh (Sydney, Australia), July 29, 2009, 8:30 PM.

You are my hero! You've inspired me to continue our fight for justice for Sikhs and all other minorities in India.

8: Santokh Singh Saran (Birmingham, U.K.), July 30, 2009, 4:15 AM.

You have proved that there are moments in history when a shoe can be mightier than a pen, which is commonly regarded as mightier than thesword. Now that you have picked up the pen again, use it with full intensity in order to wake up the conscience of the Indian politicians and administrators.

9: Kiratraj Singh (Birmingham, U.K.), July 30, 2009, 3:07 PM.

Brilliant article written from the heart. May Maharaj continue to bless you, Jarnail Singh ji.

10: Simran (Oceanside, U.S.A.), July 30, 2009, 7:59 PM.

Jasnail Singh ji, thank you for standing up for the community! Is a verdict of guilty and punishment of 'x' years in prison (or even hanging by the noose) by the court for Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler for their crimes, what "justice" means to us? Our Gurus had given the lamp of justice to us with all their might and made us the custodians. The Khalsa was probably no more than 2% of the population during the Khalsa Raj. We weren't waiting for court justice but were in the forefront of delivering it or fighting for it on everyone's behalf (including our fellow humans of other faiths). I feel our vision has been limited in the past 100 years and 1984 was a cruel reminder that we are not using our Gurus' and 'grand-father's wealth in the right manner. At present, doesn't it seem that the Khalsa's vision is limited to India, Punjab, Punjabi and the S.G.P.C.? Manmohan Singh is the closest a Sikh has been to running a nation of over a 1.1 billion people and we have our fair share of expectations from him regarding 1984, the right to wear a turban, etc. What is your vision towards our roles/responsibilites on a global level?

11: K.J. SINGH (New Delhi, India), July 31, 2009, 2:25 AM.

I think 2009 - the 25th anniversary of 1984 - is a time to protest. An international programme needs to be thought out to bring about justice. During all the gurpurabs of 2009, the 1984 issues should be an important part of the agenda. During Oct/Nov'09, the month in which the massacre happened, protest rallies should be planned all over.

12: M.S. Sodhi (Mumbai, India), July 31, 2009, 3:35 AM.

Veerji, we need many many courageous gursikhs like you. I am trying to teach teenagers so that they know the wealth that is there in Guru Granth Sahib. I know it will take 15-20 years, but revive we must as a community. That is the only answer. We seem to have lost our roots. One person like you can shake the tree, One person like Guru Gobind Singh could make so much of a difference. I wish to create many many - real, passionate gursikhs.

13: Inderjit Singh (Bombay, India), July 31, 2009, 7:55 AM.

Sikhs can never ever banish from their thoughts the 1984 villainous and heinous crimes propelled by the Congress government in power. The killers and instigators were 100% Hindus, who now have the audacity to claim that they had historically offered their elder sons to become Sikhs. A mad fringe of Hindus were joking then by saying "Yaad kare ga Khalsa", making fun of "Raj kare ga Khalsa". It was Guru Sahibaans' hukam that we, the Sikhs, give our lives to save this cowardly race from the Mughals, and this is how they show their fondness, regard and respect by giving their saviours the atrocious gift of 1984? Jarnail Singh ji, you dared to have shown your anger then, and more courage now by expressing your feelings. No Sikh can differ with your conviction.

14: Paramjit Singh (Delhi, India), July 31, 2009, 10:59 AM.

Sikhs can never forget the events of 1984 and the aftermath. Let us pray to Waheguru to mete out His justice to the mass murderers.

15: Sukhwinder Singh (Chandigarh, Punjab), July 31, 2009, 2:32 PM.

It takes only one courageous person to awaken a whole nation from deep slumber. Waheguru has chosen you to be blessed with this enormous seva. I am of the firm belief that He is besides you always. Please carry on the crusade; the whole Sikh Nation is behind you.

16: J. S. Kohli (Mumbai, India), August 01, 2009, 5:27 AM.

No sin goes unpunished. In the end, truth prevails. S. Jarnail Singh has initiated the process for all who love justice and the cause of human rights; we need to follow his example of courage ...

17: Harmeet Singh (Mumbai, India), August 02, 2009, 4:46 AM.

Very well written, sir. Sincere hope that justice prevails. Praying to get strength to get justice on the path of God.

18: Gurnoor (India), August 03, 2009, 7:58 AM.

Very well written form the bottom of a paining heart. Well, I can say that you are just like a lamp that gives light during a black-out. We need flames and sparks like you so that we can lighten up the minds of the whole world, so that the people suffering from the '84 pogroms can get justice.

19: Sumandeep Singh (Washington DC, U.S.A.), August 03, 2009, 9:26 AM.

Jiska sahib dhaada hovey, tisko maar sakee na koyee!. Dear Jarnail Singh ji, you remind me of another "Jarnail Singh" who was just as brave as you. I can only wish that Waheguru gives all of us Sikhs courage, strength and understanding like yours. Always live in chardi kalaa, Khalsa ji; we all support you 100%.

20: Kala (U.S.A.), August 04, 2009, 11:38 PM.

Bhaji, I support your really courageous act for insisting that the Congress government act on justice issues re the mass murders of 1984, although they are still in their typical power mode. I hope that other Sikhs will follow your lead ...

21: Karam Singh (United Kingdom), August 05, 2009, 3:12 AM.

Jarnail Singh fails to mention the role of Sikh politicians who have been complicit in making 1984 a non-issue. They have formed an alliance with right-wing hate groups, such as the RSS, etc.

22: Jagpreet Singh  (Torino, Italy), August 08, 2009, 5:38 AM.

Veerji, as another Veer has already said, the line "don't ask us to forget" prominently tells us NOT to forget. Thanks for waking up the Indian government and the people.

23: Amarjeet Singh (Chandigarh, Punjab), August 08, 2009, 10:41 AM.

Dear Jarnail Singh ji, your action was not against any individual but against the miserable Indian system of justice. You have successfully raised your voice against the injustices done to the Sikhs. Thank you.

24: Dr. Harsimran Singh (New York, U.S.A.), August 09, 2009, 4:08 PM.

I only hope and pray that your action will touch the conciousness of India's Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. I don't know how a person at his level can sleep comfortably without bringing justice to the Sikhs.

25: Jarnail Singh (India), August 16, 2009, 3:34 PM.

Fateh to all. Your comments have really filled me with pride. It was a symbolic protest. I don't have any political affiliations. Proud to be a neutral journalist and against all kind of biases. "Kabir na hum kiya na kaenge na kar sake sreer kya jana kich har kiya bhyo kabir kabir."

26: Meena (Delhi, India), August 24, 2009, 3:39 AM.

Jarnail Singh ji, thank you for not forgetting and for doing what you did. I hope Waheguru heaps all his blessings on you and other brave Sikhs in India. Our hearts and prayers are with you.

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