After Bush and Jiabao, Chidambaram gets the boot

After George W Bush and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao (See: Wen follows Bush; escapes shoe missile at Cambridge), it was union home minister P Chidambaram's turn on Tuesday to face a protestor's shoe.

Dissatisfied with the minister's explanation about the apparent rehabilitation of two politicians accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, Dainik Bhaskar journalist Jarnail Singh took off his shoe and flung it at Chidambaram during a press conference in New Delhi.

But while both Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqui TV journalist who started the trend by hurling both his size-10 soft-leather shoes, one at a time, at Bush on his last visit to Iraq as US president, and Martin Jahnke, the Cambridge researcher who did the same to Jiabao, are behind bars, Jarnail Singh was let off without charges... though his employer says it has initiated disciplinary proceedings against him.

Perhaps, it has something to do with his inaccuracy – he missed by a fair margin - or perhaps it is a reflection of Indians' (and Chidambaram's) more forgiving attitude to minor transgressions. But while al-Zaidi was brutally wrestled to the ground, and is now serving a one-year sentence (recently reduced from three years), and Jahnke awaits trial in the UK (See: TV journalist Zaidi gets 3 years for 'booting' Bush), Singh was simply led away by two Congress workers, with Chidambaram saying, ''Gently, gently''.

Momentarily taken aback by the journalist's action, the minister quickly recovered his poise with a smile, and insisted on going on with the press conference despite the distraction, which entirely grabbed the attention. ''Let us not be distracted by what one person has done in a fit of emotion,'' he said. Asked for his reaction soon after the incident, Chidambaram said, ''I forgive him.''

The shoe was thrown after Jarnail Singh had asked a question about two of the accused in the riots, Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, being given a clean chit by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Chidambaram replied that the home ministry had nothing to do with the CBI, which comes directly under the prime minister.