The shoe had long been established as a weapon of dissent. Anti-dam activists added spit as a mode of protest in Guwahati on Wednesday.
Some 30,000 farmers and people affected by massive hydroelectric projects assembled here for a protest rally commandeered by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and other anti-dam organizations.
The ire of the activists was primarily against the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri project, a joint venture of the Arunachal Pradesh government and National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC).
The activists' show of dissent turned into a shoe-throwing and spitting exercise after the Assam's administrative heads declined to receive their representation. They literally spewed venom, aimed at the deputy commissioner's office and other symbols of governance here.
Someone who did listen to the protestors, albeit inadvertently, was Beth A Payne, Consul General at the US Consulate in Kolkata. In another corner of this city, she said the US was interested in the huge – estimated 50000 MW – hydro potential of Northeast India.
"But we have found out people here want small dams and microhydel projects, for which we are developing improved technology. Our focus on ecologically viable projects is in keeping with President Barack Obama's push for clean green renewable energy," she said.
Payne's views were similar to those of NBA leader Medha Patkar while addressing the anti-dam rally: “We are not averse to small dams. Even the US has stopped constructing big dams since 1996. They are now demolishing the structures for the free flow of water."
According to Patkar, big dams would only cause ruin. "The Northeast is an ecologically fragile region. There is no dearth of rivers and waters here. What's lacking is the government's inability to make the right technological choice to harness resources," she said.