History of shoe throwing

Kashmir has the distinction of resisting aggression for centuries.  The entire sub-continent accepted Mughal rule but Kashmiris fought them. When India formally launched the freedom movement in 1857, Bahadur Shah Zaffar was elected leader unanimously. But Kashmiris fought the Mughals. Initially the resistance was vigorous but as the time passed it became subtle.



There came a time when Kashmiris would curse the Mughals from their roof tops. But, the resistance was not given up.  It was during this time, according to noted Kashmiri poet and social activist, Zareef Ahmad Zareef that words like `Shikas Moughal’ and `Pogu Moughal’ were added to the vocabulary.

Kashmiris also offered resistance to Sikhs and Afghans notwithstanding their brutal repression.  The fight against Dogras is unparalleled. Contrary to common belief, the Kashmiris have not allowed the leaders to take them for a ride.  It is widely believed that Sher-e-Kashmir had a cake walk in 1947. He had to face stiff resistance from Muslim Conference workers. Some National Conference workers also opposed him.  To fulfil his designs, he exiled hundreds of dissidents. They conveyed their displeasure whenever the leaders deviated from the stand. At times they pelted stones to express their anger and when stones were not available, the people threw shoes.  

This way the Kashmiris have the distinction of inventing this `novel’ mode of protest. However, Kashmir history fails to make a mention of these daring deeds. The Abdullahs have been important for past eight decades. They have seen good times and bad moments. They have been loved and ridiculed. Sher-e-Kashmir was the first among Abdullah’s to face wrath of the people. After the July 13 massacre outside Srinagar Central Jail, the government managed an agreement with the leadership. All protests came to a halt. This did not go well with the masses. There were attempts on Sher-e-Kashmir’s life as well. Finally the leaders managed to pacify the people at the historic Jamia Masjid where they vowed to take the movement to its logical end.

After facing the wrath of people in Srinagar, Sher-e-Kashmir went to Sopore to address a gathering.  Shabnam Qayoom says on page110 of his Kashmir Ka Siyasi Inqilaab, Vol. I: “The anger did not subside fully after the Jamia Masjid rally. Next, the leaders faced some tough moments at Sopore. Abdul Gani Malik of Arampora, Sopore threw a shoe at Sheikh Abdullah. It hit him in the chest. Another shoe hit Ashai. The angry people were pacified by Saad-ud-Din Shawl and Sofi Muhammad Akber.”

Founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah visited Kashmir in 1944. A Muslim Conference worker, Muhammad Yusuf Khan who passed away in September 2010 said National Conference goons pelted stones on his (Jinnah’s) motorcade near Uri (although other workers contest it). This incident enraged the Muslim Conference workers. They vowed to take revenge. Next year, Jawahar Lal Nehru came to Kashmir. He was taken in a boat procession from Chattabel Veer. At Musa Ghat , Zaina Kadal, Muslim Conference workers threw worn out shoes and garbage at the visiting leaders.

After assuming power through rigged elections in 1987, Dr Farooq Abdullah went to Eidgah to offer Eid-ul-Fitr prayers. A group of angry young men in the front row threw a number of shoes at him. The congregational prayers were delayed for quite some time. Soon after the incident scores of young men were taken into custody. They were also taken into custody on Eid-ul-Azha and next year a few days ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr. The trend ended in 1989 when the on-going movement gained momentum.   

The 2010 agitation claimed 129 lives. People were aghast. On August 15,  2010  when Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah was  delivering his `Independence speech’ to a large number of police men and soldiers from army and  para-military forces, a police man, Abdul Ahad Jan threw a shoe at him. The shoe missed the intended target. “Throw shoes not stones”, Omar responded.  

Ahad Jan became a hero overnight. A noted organization also announced an award for him.  Jan was immediately taken into custody and severely tortured.  Omar Abdullah scored a point over his grandfather and father. Sher-e-Kashmir was red with anger when a shoe hit him at Sopore. Similarly, Dr Farooq lost his cool at Eidgah. But Omar remained calm and composed. When Jan was produced before him next morning, Omar pardoned him.   

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