2019 will surely go down in Indian history as a landmark year. From the yearend protests over citizenship laws to abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir in August, the political turmoil in the country hogged the headlines soon after a landslide victory of the Narendra Modi government in the Lok Sabha polls. IBNS correspondent Supriyo Hazra looks back
Blaming the neighbouring nation for the terror attack, India carried out airstrikes on terror camps in Pakistan. The tension between the two nations heightened on Feb 26 when Indian fighter jets moved deep inside Pakistan and bombed JeM terror camps in Balakot. It was for the first time since the 1971 war that the Indian jets entered inside Pakistan to drop bombs. Following this incident, an aerial combat between air forces of the two countries occurred on February 27 when Pakistan jets entered India. On its way to chase Pakistani jets, an Indian Air Force jet crashed in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The injured Indian pilot was captured by Pakistan. But things soon normalised after Pakistan decided to release the Indian pilot-Abhinandan Varthaman. He at once became India's newest hero.
However, both the nations united momentarily over the Kartarpur Corridor inauguration in November this year. India signed the agreement with Pakistan on October 24, 2019 on the modalities for operationalisation of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor at Zero Point, International Boundary, Dera Baba Nanak. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 9 from the Indian side opened the Kartarpur Corridor, the crossborder pathway, which allowed the Sikh pilgrims in India visit Gurudwara Kartapur Sahib in Pakistan.
Congress pinched in general polls:
The Congress party further slipped from its position in the Lok Sabha polls, forcing even Rahul Gandhi to quit as President of the ‘grand old party’ of the country. At this time of leadership crisis within the party, the Congress once again rested their faith in seasoned leader Sonia Gandhi who was appointed as the interim president. The party managed to win just 52 seats in the Lok Sabha polls.
The Unexpected Kashmir Move:
Soon after the abrogation of the articles, Kashmir was in a lockdown and senior Kashmir leaders were put under house arrest. While the government eased the restrictions in phases, top leaders of the erstwhile political elites of the state like Omar Abdullah or Mehbooba Mufti are still under detention.
NRC-CAA-NPR: The Bitter Pills
Who are eligible citizens in Assam?
People whose names appear on the 1951 NRC.
People whose names appear on any voter list in Assam up to March 24 midnight, 1971 and descendants.
People who came from Bangladesh between January 1, 1966, and March 24, 1971, registered themselves with the Foreigner Regional Registration Office and were declared by the Foreigner Tribunal as Indian citizens.
The Indian citizens including their descendants who moved to Assam after March 24, 1971 (they need to furnish proof of residence in another part of the country as on March 24, 1971).
From West Bengal to Uttar Pradesh, severe protests against the new citizenship law rocked the nation in December. Students of various universities, including Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi, participated in national-wide demonstrations and clashes with the police, triggering tension all over. The protests also recorded deaths and even marred the celebratory mood at the end of the year.
NPR: The newest irritant
Amid ongoing protests over the CAA, the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on December 24 approved the proposal for conducting Census of India 2021 at a cost of Rs. 8,754.23 crore and updation of National Population Register (NPR) at a cost of Rs. 3,941.35 crore. Census of India will cover the entire population in the country while NPR will also cover all the population except in the state of Assam.
However, soon fresh political opposition and protests broke out over NPR as it is dubbed as a prelude to NRC. The Congress said the government was bringing in the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the “garb" of NPR while the ruling BJP rubbished it saying there is no link between NPR and NRC. The Modi government said while updating the NPR, the government will not seek any document from the people nor any biometric data and it is a form of self-declaration with no verification
It may be a fact that Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party returned to power with a bang by registering a massive victory in the Lok Sabha polls, but things did not remain rosy for the ruling majority party in the Assembly elections held in several states including the politically crucial Maharashtra.
In Maharashtra, BJP perhaps suffered a major loss when its relationship with long time alliance partner Shiv Sena shattered after the election result was declared. The Maharashtra election witnessed lots of drama, plots which can even give a proper Bollywood movie a run for money, this year. The poll results once again showed BJP winning 105 seats. Amid a faceoff over demand for rotational chief minister by the Shiv Sena between the BJP and Shiv Sena, NCP chief Ajit Pawar pulled out a major subplot as he gave his support to ex- CM Devendra Fadnavis and formed the government. However, the government did not last long and Ajit returned to the NCP fold once again. Ending all the speculations and coups, Shiv Sena, which won 56 seats in the Maharashtra assembly elections, joined hands with NCP (54) and Congress (44) to form and alliance. The trio formed the government and paved way for Uddhav Thackeray to become the Chief Minister of the crucial Indian state.
Jharkhand, the tribal dominated east Indian state, also slipped out of BJP’s grip when JMM-Congress and RJD alliance clinched the last Assembly elections of the year, giving the opposition some hope.The alliance won 47 seats while BJP managed only 25 in the polls, paving way for Hemant Soren to take charge of the state as the CM for yet another term.
Haryana remained the only red spot in the BJP’s otherwise poor show in the state polls where it returned to power for second straight term. But, the Haryana poll results were also not as sweet as the party would have expected as it only managed to return with a slender majority.
Amid a tightened security across the nation and particularly in Uttar Pradesh, a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi on November 9 asked the Indian government to set up a trust within three months to decide on the disputed Ayodhya land for the Hindus to build a temple, while they asked for a five-acre land for the Muslims to construct a mosque in a prominent alternative location.
Inner and outer land should be given to the trust, the court said in the 70-year-old legal dispute. In a unanimous judgement, the Sunni Waqf Board was given 5 acres of alternate land.
A verdict in favour of the majority Hindu community, the disputed land now goes effectively in possession of the Indian government.
Abhijit Banerjee: Years after Amartya Sen, another Indian origin economist based abroad made the country proud as Kolkata’s Abhijit Banerjee won the prestigious Nobel prize in Economics. Banerjee and his wife Esther Duflo won the Nobel Prize in Economics for their "experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.” As the global audience watched, a dhoti-clad Abhijit Banerjee on Dec 10 received the award along with his wife, who also happened to wear a blue saree teaming it up with a red blouse leaving the Bengali community happily surprised.
India’s ambitious Chandrayaan 2 mission occurred on July 22 when the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched the spacecraft into Earth's orbit via Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV MkIII-M1. This was India’s second lunar mission. The main objective of the mission was to understand the moon more closely. However, things did not go down well and. On August 20, 2019, Chandrayaan-2 was successfully inserted into lunar orbit but tragedy struck the mission in the month of September. ISRO lost contact with the Vikram lander around 2.1 km over the lunar surface on Sept 7, just five days after Vikram Lander was separated from the Orbiter in preparation for landing on Sept 2.
The Delhi pollution tragedy grabbed attention across the globe this year. Air quality continued to dip and people in the national capital were forced to breathe in the choking air, triggering debates whether it was time to take some serious action to save Mother Earth. Images of people wearing masks to save themselves from the environmental disaster kept choking the social media and newspapers following Diwali celebrations. An image went viral online where authorities of a temple in Varanasi covered the face of the deity with mask to protect him from pollution.
Apart from the pollution, the rising price of onion continued to bring tears in eyes of people. In different cities, onion prices ranged between Rs. 100 to 150 for the past couple of weeks. Foodies will want their unavoidable vegetable to pinch a bit lower on their pockets next year.
Unnao and Telangana: Year of Women insecurity
Two rape and murder incidents left the nation shocked and India remained no country for women. Four men gangraped and murdered a young veterinary doctor while she was returning on a scooter from work in Telangana on Nov 27. She was then burnt by the miscreants. The nation was left shocked once the incident came to light. Protest marches and social media outrage ignited the country which had earlier witnessed similar outcry during the 2012 NIrbhaya gangrape case. However, in a dramatic turn of events this time all the four accused in this case were arrested and then killed in an encounter by police. Once again the nation was divided on whether the police move to kill them in an alleged staged encounter was right or wrong.
Greta Thunberg, the teenager, who has started her war against climate change, challenging politicians to act fast against the disaster, may not have won the Nobel Prize this year but was named as Time's Person of the Year. Greta became the icon of teenagers across the globe as she led them in a global youth movement, pressing for faster action climate change. She also earned global recognition by making a powerful speech at the UN Climate Change Summit. Winning the accolade remained specially relevant in a year when the Amazon burned, endangering the major green cover of the Earth. Environmental groups have been campaigning to save the Amazon for a long period of time. They have even blamed Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro for the events. They have continuously blamed the Brazilian leader of relaxing environmental controls in the country and encouraging deforestation.
New Zealand's Christchurch mosque shootings:
Hong Kong: Anti-China protests hits normal life
Anti-China protests have badly hit normal life in the picturesque city of Hong Kong and even in the end of December there seems to be no end to the protests which even occurred during Christmas. In June, clashes and protests were first reported in the city over government’s plans to allow extradition to mainland China. Critics voiced the fear that the move could undermine judicial independence and endanger dissidents. The bill was withdrawn in September but protests continued to rock the nation over numerous demands including full democracy. Britain had ruled Hong Kong until 1997. It was then returned to China. Under the "one country, two systems" arrangement, the region, despite being within China, enjoys certain autonomy.
India fail to reach Final:
Dreams of over millions of Indians were shattered in a time of 30 minutes when India lost their semi-final encounter by losing their key top-order batsmen against New Zealand in the World Cup. Despite MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja’s late heroics, the match had already slipped out of India’s grasp and New Zealand beat them to cruise to the final where they lost to England in a dramatic Super Over event. England grabbed their first World Cup after a long wait since the start of the tournament in 1975.
KL Rahul-Hardik Pandya: Chat show, gossips and controversy
Indian cricketers KL Rahul and Hardik Pandya found themselves in deep trouble when certain comments they made during their appearance in a popular chat show, hosted by filmmaker Karan Johar, hurt sentiments and even left them lose their places from Team India. The Indian cricket board sent the duo back home from their Australian tour and even suspended them provisionally. Hardik and Rahul later apologised for their statements. Later, both of them played for the national side in the World Cup, surely moving ahead from the row which their comments had caused across the nation at the beginning of the year.
Sourav Ganguly: Dada heads BCCI
Sourav Ganguly, former Indian skipper, will always be remembered for shaping a Young Indian squad that played fearlessly against all opponents and even dared to defeat the mighty Australians in the early 2000s. Ganguly, who is now showing some charisma as a cricket administrator, was elected as the head of the Indian cricket board, starting a new innings n his career.
Pink Ball phenomenon:
Years after it was introduced in international cricket, India finally joined the Pink ball phenomenon as the nation hosted the first match at Eden Gardens in Kolkata against Bangladesh. India won the Test match comfortably. However, the match will be remembered for its massive crowd pulling power which surely hinted administrators that such an event might be banked on in the next year to bring back youth to watch Test matches in stadium once again.
PV Sindhu breaks records again:
India’s badminton poster girl PV Sindhu once again bloomed hopes for a Olympic medal victory when she became the first Indian shuttler to clinch the gold medal at the BWF World Championships. In her winning ways, Sindhu defeated her arch rivals Nozomi Okuhara 21-17,21-7 in the finals of the women's singles at the 2019 BWF World Championships held in Basel, Switzerland.
India’s new Golden girl Dutee.
Another Olympic medal hope, Dutee Chand made a major mark internationally when she won the gold medal in the 100m dash at the 30th Summer University Games in Napoli, Italy. She became the first Indian athlete to win the yellow medal at the prestigious event. She continued her golden run and even won gold in the 100 m at the Indian Open Grand Prix.
Movies and Entertainment: The Newsmakers:
Ayushmann Khurrana: If you argue that 2018 was his best then think again as Ayushmann Khurrana, Bollywood's present poster boy, delivered it even bigger this year with three consecutive hits. The Ayushmann mania has been sweeping the Bollywood shores for the past couple of years and this time it started with the thriller Article 15. Then came Dream Girl, with its hidden soft message against the trouble of loneliness faced by people today. With his last release Bala, Ayushmann remained the hit maker of the year, creating probably a new formula for upcoming stars to follow in the coming days.
Ranveer Singh: Ranveer Singh only gets bigger and bigger. This year, he was seen giving life to the character of Mumbai rapper Murad Ahmed in the movie Gully Boy. He even performed 'Apna Time Ayega' with such perfection that professional rap artists will get a run for their money. He was seen pairing up with Alia Bhatt in the movie, a first in their careers. The movie has been selected as India's entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards. In 2020, he will be seen playing onscreen Kapil Dev in 83.
Modi and Bollywood for Gandhi:
In an unprecedented event, a chunk of Bollywood fraternity gathered at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's residence in Octber to promote Mahatma Gandhi's ideologies on the occasion of the Father of the Nation's 150th birth anniversary (which falls on Oct 2). In a two-minute video posted by Modi on Twitter, film personalities Aamir Khan, Alia Bhatt, Salman Khan, Kangana Ranaut, Ranbir Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Vicky Kaushal and Shah Rukh Khan were seen reciting the quotable quotes of Mahatma Gandhi. Filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani, whose films were known for reintroducing Gandhi's ideals as Gandhigiri in modern times, made the video. With hashtag #ChangeWithin, the Prime Minister said on Twitter, "The film fraternity comes together to pay tributes to Mahatma Gandhi! #ChangeWithin is an excellent effort, which will add momentum towards ensuring Gandhi Ji’s message reverberates far and wide. It will also inspire citizens to take up causes dear to Bapu."
Sheila Dikshit (31/03/1938-20/07/2019): A powerful Congress leader, Sheila Dikshit, will be remembered as the longest serving Chief Minister of any state or union territory (UT).She had served Delhi for three terms as CM. She was the president of the Delhi Congress at the time of her death. She had also served as the Governor of Kerala during her lifetime.