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‘The ghost of 1984 never left us’

Jarnail Singh says he never intended to hit Chidambaram, ‘impulse’ got the better of him, reports Rahul Singh.

delhi Updated: Apr 10, 2009 01:37 IST
Rahul Singh

“I am not excited. I don’t feel victorious,” said Jarnail Singh as he watched a news channel breaking the story on Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar being denied Lok Sabha tickets.

“If the Sikh community is mollified by Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar being denied tickets, then I would say I have achieved a small part of my objective,” said the 36-year-old journalist.

An unassuming reporter who covered the defence beat, Singh shot into limelight after he threw his Reebok shoe at Home Minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday protesting the CBI clean chit to Tytler in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

Remorseful, he insisted that he never intended to hit the minister. “I tossed the shoe to his right. Impulse got the better of me. The home minister had said last week that he was happy that Tytler had got a clean chit. I was bereft of all hope. Did he not know that our hearts had bled for 25 years,” said Singh, known among his colleagues as a reticent and uncontroversial man.

His cell phone rang incessantly at his brother’s modest apartment in Lajpat Nagar. His brother runs a business of automobile accessories.

Singh swigged down a mango drink. It appeared as if nothing has changed. Only, he has not returned home since Tuesday and almost forgot to wish his wife on their wedding anniversary on Wednesday. He missed being with his six-year-old son and the two-year-old daughter.

Singh — I always called him Jerry — had bought the Reebok pair from a store in Seattle last May during an assignment. He had asked me if they looked cool. I had nodded in agreement. The sneakers cost him $60. He grinned when I reminded him that. “Did you get your shoe back,” I asked. Negative, he replied.

I checked out his new leather sandals. They were black. The sneakers were white with a blue logo.

Singh veered the conversation from the offbeat to the more intense. “It’s not about two men not contesting the elections. It’s about healing the wounds of the Sikhs. The ghost of the 1984 massacre never left us,” he said, switching off his cell phone that was being bombarded with calls from journalists wanting his reaction on the Tytler-Sajjan Kumar saga. “All this is giving me a headache.”

Singh was playing cricket in the neighbourhood park when a mob charged into Lajpat Nagar to slaughter Sikhs, 25 years ago. His mother hid him in a small room. His polio-stricken brother was attacked. The neighbourhood gurudwara was burnt down. Those images are still fresh in his mind.

“I never wanted to be in the limelight. I only wanted to remind the nation that Sikhs are still waiting for justice. This is India and not Afghanistan where the Taliban rule,” said Singh. He is known to be deeply religious but not dogmatic. He often read spiritual books while travelling on defence assignments.

“When the PM apologised for the anti-Sikh riots in 2005, it purged the bitterness from our hearts. The Sikhs were hopeful that justice would be done. And then the CBI gave a clean chit to Tytler.” He clarified that he had no plans to jump into the hurly-burly of politics. Nor is he hankering for cash rewards announced by a few Sikh organisations.

“Use the money for the rehabilitation of riot victims,” he said.