Sending someone footwear may have various connotations in different cultures. The most common one is contempt, as was witnessed in 2008 when a journalist hurled his shoe at then US President George W Bush.
Indians are now delivering footwear to the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi in a show of much the same contempt — but the delivery method is much more benign — at Pakistan and its actions.
After all, when the mother and wife of Kulbhushan Jadhav — the retired Indian naval officer whom Pakistan detained and a military court gave the death penalty on trumped-up charges claiming he was a spy — met him on Monday, December 25, not only were the two women made to change clothes and temporarily deposit their jewellery, but his wife's shoes were confiscated!
It was only later that Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Faisal told Dawn that this had been done apparently because something metallic was found in her footwear.
'Juta Bhejo Pakistan'
As the outrage over Pakistan's actions increased over the weeks, social media was flooded with messages expressing rage.
Perhaps capitalising on this, Delhi BJP spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga on Friday, December 29, started a campaign with the hashtag "#JutaBhejoPakistan" to send shoes to the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi in protest.
"Pakistan wants our slippers, Let's Give them Slippers. I have ordered Slippers & sent to Pakistan High Commission. I request everyone to Order 1 Pair Slipper for Pakistan. After ordering Slippers tweet your order's screenshot with #JutaBhejoPakistan [sic]," he wrote on Twitter.
Pakistan wants our slippers, Let's Give them Slippers. I have ordered Slippers & sent to Pakistan High Commission. I request everyone to Order 1 Pair Slipper for Pakistan. After ordering Slippers tweet your order's screenshot with #JutaBhejoPakistan pic.twitter.com/VzhKvDLq82— Tajinder Bagga (@TajinderBagga) December 29, 2017
Many people have since taken up this challenge, booking footwear online to be sent to the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi and uploading a screenshot of the invoice to Twitter with the hashtag #JutaBhejoPakistan.
Here are some examples:
In some cases, the Pakistan High Commission apparently refused to accept the packages! Here's someone who claims something exactly like that happened:
Why the outrage?
While Kulbhushan's wife's shoes being confiscated may have been the spark that lit the fire of these protests, the flammable substances have been present for quite some time, and the fuel was provided by the manner in which Kulbhushan's mother and wife were treated when they went to visit him.
For starters, Pakistan is yet to allow India have consular access to Kulbhushan, who is alive today only because India approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which in May this year stayed his death sentence.
And then, when his wife and mother were finally allowed to meet him, they were separated by a glass wall. It has also been alleged that Kulbhushan was coerced into toeing Pakistan's line during the conversation. They were also forced to converse in English as opposed to their mother tongue.
Finally, after the meeting, Kulbhushan's mother and wife were heckled by sections of Pakistani media as they waited to be taken away by the Indian envoy.