The Obamas Visit to India
This year’s 66th Republic Day ceremonial parade assumed special significance as US President Barack Obama along with his wife Michelle Obama attended the program. Obama is the first U.S. President to be the chief guest at a Republic Day function and to visit India twice during office. On the second day of the US President’s visit, Modi and Obama, stepped out of Hyderabad House for a well-choreographed tête-à-tête. As the cameras clicked, PM Modi poured tea for President Obama, and both leaders were seen smiling together. This image became the symbol of growing friendship between the two individuals and two countries.
However, two things rocked this ideal image of bonhomie between the two leaders. First was Modi’s bandhgala suit he wore at the meeting, said to be worth Rs. 10 Lakhs with his own name sewn repeatedly on it, earning him jibes from both the opposition and the public. Second was the parting speech by Obama, where he said, “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith.” “Every person has the right to practice their faith how they choose or to practice no faith at all and to do so free from persecution,” It diluted the credence enjoyed by Modi as a leader who won the sweeping mandate of a diverse democracy.
Bihar elections were critical to all the players involved. After the massive loss in Delhi, winning Bihar was critical for BJP. As for Nitish, Lalu and Congress, it was to find their place back in the country’s political scene. TheirMahagathbandhan or Grand Alliance, pitted against BJP and its allies, the National Democratic Alliance. PM Modi, BJP’s star campaigner, campaigned across the length and breadth of the state, addressing 31 rallies in total. Reservation, intolerance, communal politics, development were all issues on which the parties fought each other. For most it was a given that BJP will win Bihar with a comfortable majority.With Nitish Kumar as its CM candidate the Grand Alliance won 178 seats in a 243 member Assembly. An astounding victory beyond the imagination of many. The biggest surprise was the emergence of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav as the kingmaker with highest number of seats within the Grand Alliance. While BJP supporters blamed caste politics as a reason for BJP’s loss, the public saw it as a verdict against the rising intolerance in the country.
The Rise of stupid Hardik Patel
Dubbed as ‘New Modi’ by some and as Gujarat’s Kejriwal by others, 22 year old Hardik Patel was a rare phenomenon that took over the state of Gujarat like a storm. The 22-year-old commerce graduate from Mehsana, in a short span of 55 days galvanised his entire Patel community to rally behind him to seek status of Other Backward Class (OBC) and reservation in education as well as government jobs. As the convenor of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), Hardik Patel is now the face of reservation demand by socially, politically and economically dominant community from Gujarat – the Patels. Hardik was able to bring thousands from his community across the state in over 100 rallies in two months. His sway was such that an estimated million Patels gathered in Ahmedabad on August 25, to listen to him. The violence that paralysed Gujarat following his brief detention post this rally, is still fresh in everyone’s memory. Curfews were imposed and the army had to be called in, to restore calm in the state.
AAP scores a landslide victory in Delhi, decimates BJP and Congress.
On February 10th, the Aam Aadmi Party’s historic win in Delhi was nothing short of a miracle but albeit a hard earned one. After his 49 day debacle as the Chief Minister of Delhi in early 2014, Arvind Kejriwal and his supporters had been written off by their political opponents.
Extensive and innovative methods of campaigning, a well spelled out manifesto and the earnestness in requesting people to give him a second chance at bringing in a corruption free government is what won Arvind Kejriwal and his team an astounding mandate. 67 seats in the 70 seat Assembly, not just negated the opposition but also, came as a shocker for BJP which had swept the Capital’s seven Lok Sabha seats just nine months ago and was the single largest party in Assembly elections held in December 2013. The worst was for Congress, after ruling Delhi for 15 years it had failed to even open its account on the seat tally.
On August 2, Indians woke up to the news that government bans had reached the privacy of their bedrooms. India’s telecoms ministry ordered internet service providers to block access to 857 websites hosting pornographic content. The ban was a result of a PIL filed by an Indore based lawyer named Kamlesh Vaswani, in the Supreme Court against pornographic websites, claiming that, “Watching porn itself puts the country’s security in danger, encourages violent acts, unacceptable behaviour in society, exploitation of children and lowers the dignity of women”. The court’s reaction was to criticise the government’s inability to act against internet sites that promoted child pornography. The government’s reaction was to impose blanket ban 857 sites that were listed by the petitioner in the Court. After an enormous backlash by the Public at large, the government decided to retrieve the ban on porn sites except those which promoted and displayed child pornographic content.
Gajendra Chauhan as FTII chairman
On June 9th, Gajendra Chauhan, more popularly known for his role as Yudhisthir in the Mahabharata TV series aired on Television in late 80s was appointed as the Chairman of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). On June 12, students of FTII went on an indefinite strike, protesting against the appointment of Television actor turned politician Mr.Chauhan as chairman, questioning, his body of work and “creative credentials.” The students doubted his ability to fit in the shoes of predecessors like R.K. Laxman, Shyam Benegal, Girish Karnad and U.R. Ananthamurthy. They were of the view that Mr. Chauhan who has been associated with the BJP for over two decades, was appointed in an attempt by the ruling party to saffronize the Institute. Many including FTII alumni and former teachers, actors, film technicians, filmmakers and political leaders opposed his appointment. On 28th October, the students ended their 139 day long strike but said the protests will continue in a peaceful and democratic manner against Chauhan.
Chennai and surrounding areas received the highest rainfall recorded in 100 years in the first week of December, as a result the city got flooded. It was declared a disaster zone after hundreds of people lost their lives and thousands were left stranded. The seriousness of the situation in Chennai can be gauged from the fact that personnel from all three defence services were pressed into relief and rescue work. The airport was closed and several trains to Chennai were either cancelled or diverted due to waterlogging. The PMO declared a relief package of 1000 crores for the state. Social media netizens and the citizens of Chennai played a huge part in ensuring several people were rescued in time as rescue teams were guided through tweets and facebook help requests.
Sheena Bora Murder Case
Sheena Bora murder would have been just another case of criminal homicide, if not for the high profile people involved in it. This was one case, the twists and turns of which made it the TRP hogging story for media. Precious air time and reams and reams of column space in news publications was dedicated to unravelling the mystery of Sheena Bora’s alleged killer Indrani Mukherjee wife of yesteryear media tycoon Peter Mukherjee. As her life and crimes unfolded on prime time television, it became impossible to separate fact from fiction. Her meteoric rise in the Indian Corporate and media circles, her many husbands, the confusion whether Sheena Bora was her sister or her daughter, the portrayal of her as an ambitious, scrupulous and power hungry female made the news story nothing short of a mega TV serial that unfolded in the drawing rooms of thousands of Indians all day. The most convoluted twist in the Sheena Bora saga came, when Indrani’s husband Peter Mukherjee was recently arrested and Indrani claimed, she was being framed.
‘Ghar Wapsi’ in West Bengal start of communal politics
What was so far a threat or clandestine operation undertaken by VHP and other right wing Hindu Dals, in unknown locations, became a full-fledged campaign when, a rally of 15000 people was held and more than 100 Christian tribals were converted to Hinduism in West Bengal’s Birbhum district in January this year. It was replicated across the country thereafter. “Will reconvert 50 lakh people to Hinduism, India will remain a Hindu Rashtra”, said Praveen Togadia “Conversion is the root of terrorism and terrorism would end when ‘ghar wapsi’ would happen. In its annual meeting held in Rajasthan in June this year, VHP leaders revealed that the organization had, brought back 33,975 persons to their ‘original faith’ through its Ghar Wapsi campaign. Ghar Wapsialso marked the beginning of open play of religion in politics, with every fringe element pitching one community against the other.
Beef Ban and Dadri Lynching
When in March, Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, nearly 19 years after the Maharashtra Assembly passed the Bill in 1995, it was seen by most as a means to encroach upon people’s freedom to choose, by the BJP led government. Adding to its list of many bans from books to movies. Things took an ugly and communal turn, when in October, 50-year-old farm worker, Mohammad Akhlaq, was lynched by a mob of more than 100 people in UP’s Dadri district, after rumors spread in the area about the family storing and consuming beef. Akhlaq’s 22-year-old son also suffered grave injuries in the attack. The incident shook the conscience of the nation, legitimating the fear of many intellectuals, that the BJP government at the centre and its other apolitical wings, the RSS and VHP were trying to create an atmosphere of disharmony in the nation by instilling fear among
the minorities. PM Modi’s silence on the issue added fuel to the claims, to the extent that many writers, film personalities who had received awards from the State, started returning them as a sign of protest against growing intolerance in the country; Giving rise to the ‘Award Wapasi’ controversy which further fanned the intolerance debate and made it a dominant national issue. Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s recent statement, that he did feel, there was a rise in intolerance in the country, sent the media, the social media and the politicos in a tizzy. Blown out of context it became a raging issue. From being banished to Pakistan and Syria to being called an anti-national, he became a convenient scapegoat for the overzealous patriots, both within and outside the country, thereby in many ways vindicating his stand on the growing intolerance in the country, at least on the digital platforms.