NEW DELHI — An angry journalist threw a shoe at India’s top security official after a confrontational exchange during a press conference over the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that left thousands dead. The shoe missed Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, who continued taking questions Tuesday as officials escorted the journalist away.
He was later taken into police custody, but it was not immediately clear whether he would face charges, said police spokesman Rajan Bhagat. Local television channels identified the journalist as Jarnail Singh, a veteran reporter with one of India’s largest newspapers, the Hindi daily Dainik Jagran. Before throwing the shoe, Mr. Singh asked Mr. Chidambaram several questions about the Central Bureau of Investigation’s findings last week that cleared a senior Congress party leader, Jagdish Tytler, from any involvement in the bloody riots that left 3,000 dead. Mr. Chidambaram said the CBI was an independent body and the government played no role in the decision, and called for the public to be patient. Mr. Singh, dressed in an olive-green shirt and a white turban, then threw his blue and white sneaker at Mr. Chidambaram, narrowly missing his face. Moments later, Mr. Chidambaram repeatedly asked the reporters in the room to “settle down,” and said, “the emotional outburst of one man should not hijack a press conference.
” Soon after, Mr. Singh told TV news reporters that he regretted throwing the shoe but he felt Mr. Chidambaram was dodging the question. “I just wanted to ask him how justice will be done, but he was not interested in answering the questions,” he told CNN-IBN during a telephone interview from police custody. “I don’t think it was the right way, what I have done, but the issue is right.” Mr. Singh didn’t say whether he was inspired by Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who last month was sentenced to three years in prison for throwing his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush in Baghdad. The 1984 riots, which remain a very controversial issue in India, left more than 3,000 dead, most of whom were Sikhs. The carnage erupted across India after former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s Sikh bodyguards shot her to death. Many blame Congress party officials for turning a blind eye or even supporting the rioters in the violence that ensued after their leader was slain. On Tuesday, hundreds of Sikhs held protests over the CBI’s findings in front of the home of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi. Jagdish Tytler, the center of the controversy, was a lawmaker at the time and remains a divisive figure in Indian politics. He is currently campaigning for re-election to Parliament in elections that begin later this month.