Is This 'Shoe-Down' The Tipping Point Of Indian Democracy?
The ‘shoeing it out’ saga in the country, this election season, began with two BJP lawmakers who got into a brawl during the district planning committee meeting in Uttar Pradesh’s Sant Kabir Nagar in the first week of March, in full view of the camera.
Hurling dissent has many manifestations, and one of the most popular among them in India has been the shoe attack. The perpetrators of this act try to create a long-lasting and viral visual of their protest. The primary feature of such conduct is that the doer ensures that the feat is done while an array of cameras is trained on them. And, what could be a better place for this than a press conference?
The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) was at the receiving end, when a nondescript person hurled his shoe at the party’s national spokesperson, GVL Narsimha Rao. Media reports suggest that the man is from Kanpur and is a medical practitioner by profession. He calls himself a whistle blower on his Facebook profile and apparently, he was disgusted with the lack of action against corruption by the present BJP regime, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The incident took place while a panel of BJP leaders was speaking to the media to defend the fielding of the terror accused Sadhvi Pragya as their candidate for the Lok Sabha elections from the Bhopal seat.
With ever rising political tempers in the country, the incident at the BJP headquarters may just be the beginning of another rash of lowly political discourse in the country.
The ‘shoeing it out’ saga in the country, this election season, began with two BJP lawmakers who got into a brawl during the district planning committee meeting in Uttar Pradesh’s Sant Kabir Nagar in the first week of March, in full view of the camera. The fight culminated with one of the party leaders bashing the other with his shoe. The videos of the shoe-fight became a rage on social media platforms and the opposition cashed in the opportunity to make the best of the incident to embarrass the BJP.
Similar attacks have been witnessed against political figures recently across parties. While the Congress was in power, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and even the present party president Rahul Gandhi have been attacked with a shoe. Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal has been physically attacked so many times that he has probably lost count.
The attackers, in all cases, had a gripe and they chose the most embarrassing method to put across their point and to draw the attention of the public through various media channels.
In 2008, an attack on then US President George W. Bush during a press interaction by a journalist caught the attention of the world and triggered a similar attack on then Indian home minister P Chidambaram. The attacker claimed that he was protesting against the inaction of the Congress party towards the perpetrators of anti-Sikh crimes in 1984.
The act of hurling a shoe at opponents is so popular in the social realm around us that the ‘protest street’ of India - Jantar Mantar in Delhi, till recently had a perennial protestor called Machindranath Suryavanshi or the ‘Joota Mar Baba’ who demands the legitimizing and popularizing of shoe hurling as a form of protest and dissent in the country.
The last five years saw many incidents of the government slapping anti-dissent laws on its opponents and clamping down on even academic campuses and arresting student leaders on charges of sheer sloganeering. These actions may only have catalysed the tendencies of such violent protests by now.
Shoe hurling as a method of registering political discontent and grievance is clearly condemnable but may be here to stay. The lowering standards of civility due to unabated hate speech will only aggravate the situation.
These incidents surely expose the lack of healthy channels of registering dissent and ithey also brings to the fore the increasingly aggressive mindset of the unbridled voter, this election season.