When does a mode of protest cease to create shock and merely generate laughter? Or worse, indifference?
When Iraqi TV journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi hurled his size 10 sneakers at the deserving George W. Bush, the world reacted with shock and awe. Of course, the computer games and the jokes about journos entering press conferences in only their socks followed in short order, but the initial reaction was exactly as the Iraqis would have hoped it would be, and overnight, al-Zaidi had become a national hero.
The same fate more or less befell Jarnail Singh when he respectfully lobbed (as opposed to hurled or even threw) his battered footwear at P Chidambaram. Clearly, the idea had caught on, but the Indian political establishment was still sufficiently shocked for Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar to be withdrawn from the current Lok Sabha elections.
Meanwhile, others were at work, too. In February, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had footwear chucked at him in Cambridge, and there were even reports of shoe throwing from Sweden.
In India, though, we are overdoing it, as usual. Following in Jarnail Singh’s footsteps (pun not intended), random folks have begun hurling shoes at other random folks, with the motives not always comprehensible to any of us bystanders. From LK Advani to Naveen Jindal to, finally, Manmohan Singh, the last the recipient of footwear from Hitesh Chauhan, the unfortunate youth pictured above.
Sadly, by now, seeing as shoe throwing has become such a part of our daily lives, I don’t think anyone really cares about the reasons anymore. Indeed, the time is fast approaching when we shall sit down and compile a list of politicians who haven’t had their mandatory brush with footwear. I mean, the Gandhis, Karats, and Reddys must be feeling left out, surely?