It may be said that footwear has always played quite a role in politics in different countries.
On October 12, 1960, the then Soviet Leader, Nikita Khrushchev, is said to have pounded his shoe on his delegate-desk in protest, at a speech by Filipino delegate Lorenzo Sumulong during the 902nd Plenary Meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York. Khrushchev did so as Sumulong reportedly made some controversial comments on Eastern European people. However, there is no photographic or video record of the shoe-banging. According to eyewitnesses, Khrushchev had brandished his shoe, but not banged it.
Shoe hurling incidents are common in South Asia, as political activists are often seen attacking leaders with shoes in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Almost all the mainstream political parties and their leaders condemned incidents of hurling shoes at former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan and Chief Minister of Indian capital of New Delhi Arvind Kejriwal in recent past. According to psychologists, shoe hurling is not the ideal way to stage protest and such incident shows lack of modesty.
Recently, Washington has shown that protests can be staged in a ‘decent and modest manner’ by using shoes as weapons. In the third week of March, advocates for gun control laid out 7,000 pairs of shoes on the Capitol Lawn in Washington DC in order to memorialise the memory of 7,000 children killed by gun violence in the US since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. Sources said that family members of gun violence victims sent those shoes. Famous personalities, like Hollywood actor Susan Sarandon, were present at the Capitol Lawn on March 13 to honour children killed by gun violence. And on March 14, a nationwide school walkout was organised across the US by protesters to demand an assault weapons ban, universal background checks on gun purchases and legislation that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behaviour.
The human rights organisation, Avaaz, has discovered this unique method of protest. Emma Ruby-Sachs – the writer, lawyer and the Deputy Director of Avaaz – said: “What we’re saying is killing has to stop. Culture is changing in America right now. The majority of Americans want gun control. The majority of gun owners want gun control and we’re putting lives of these children at the feet of Congress and saying: ‘Catch up, Act now, let’s end this.’”
On the other hand, India witnessed tens of thousands of farmers from western province of Maharashtra marching through the provincial capital of Mumbai on March 12 in order to protest against a lack of government support despite severe distress within the sector. The protestors, demanding waivers on agricultural loans in the aftermath of unseasonal rains that destroyed crops, walked more than 180km from Nasik to Mumbai in four days to stage the sit-in protest outside the provincial Legislative Assembly building. Later, the social media were flooded with images of calloused, blistered and even bleeding feet, as many farmers walked barefoot from Nasik to Mumbai. Those images prompted urban India to provide protesting farmers with shoes.
It seems that it’s the beginning of ‘politics of footprint’!
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