As 2016 draws to an end, we look at the nouns and pronouns that had an impact in India and worldwide. Also, a few words have entered the Indian lexicon in 2016 and gained common currency.
A = Anti-national
The word has become synonymous with anyone who begs to differ with populist (not really popular) views. Being marked as an anti-national is a one-way ticket to hinterlands infested with an army of trolls whose power lies in using their bramhastra — the hashtag. Many, who have been subjected to their boorishness, have seen their @mentions swell with messages littered with profanities with the usual “Tard” suffix . How to use Anti-national in a sentence: You are an anti national $**#%^*^#%#%^*.
B = Brexit
The United Kingdom was the first domino to fall as the right slowly, but steadily, made inroads in Europe and North America. Public anger against immigration and lack of jobs allowed fringe nationalist parties to stir emotions in a cauldron of hate. The festering anger among the British found a window in the form a referendum to lift the drawbridge for immigrants fleeing war and poverty. The decadence of the ruling class did not help stop the impending exit of her Majesty’s kingdom from the EU.
C = Canonisation
She was already a saint in the eyes of many who were miraculously cured by her touch and comforting words. The canonisation of Mother Teresa was just a matter of formality. However, years after her death, allegations resurfaced over her handling of financial affairs when she was at the helm. Doubts were also raised on how only a few have been miraculously cured.
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D = Demonetisation
Pretty much the word of the year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to scrap old high denomination notes had set up the entire country on an Easter Hunt. The search for an ATM had more number of participants than PokemonGo at its peak. ‘No cash’ signboards outside ATMs became pokestops and pokegyms where the players traded stories and lumbered up before they dashed to the next cash machine.
India embraced the startup culture of the Silicon Valley by lifting ideas and shaping them into better ones. Enterprising entrepreneurs now even have the support of the Government of India, after the prime minister launched Startup India and Standup India schemes. Startup incubators, accelerator programs have also gained ground in recent years. However, it was a tad disappointing to see a few CEOs ask the government to stifle competition by putting a cap on the foreign money investments in global companies.
F = Freedom of Speech
Something that is enshrined in the constitution often amounts to nothing when the powers that be crack the whip in the name of national interest. It is in national interest, they proclaim, when they issue their cease and desist orders. They would then go on to browbeat anyone with the anti-national stick that has been greased with the sweat and tears of activists championing for our rights.
G = Gurugram
It is hard not to wonder whether the government has a dedicated ministry when it comes to renaming of roads, places and public schemes. For all you know, it could be a machine silently whirring in one of the corner offices in North Block that randomly coughing out slips of paper. For the slightly more imaginative, it would not come as a surprise if the Made in China inscribed at the back was covered with an more acceptable label, without straying away from the make in India narrative.
H = Hafeez Saeed
The 26/11 Mumbai attacks mastermind was largely in the news in 2016 for his comments in the aftermath of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death. He also warned India of Pathankot-style attacks if the purported subjugation of human rights in Kashmir continues.
I = Intolerance
As Aamir Khan capped off 2015 with his widely perceived controversial remarks, the debate over rising intolerance spilled into 2016 with the growing atrocities against Dalits. The debate was often one-sided with one anchor’s voice drowning out the cacophony of noises and attempting to change its course. Nobody was spared, including the award-Wapsi brigade for voicing their protest against government inaction.
J = Jio
Telecom companies got caught in the maelstrom created by the launch of Jio 4g services. The impact it generated was akin to the launch of Reliance Communications’ CDMA services in 2002, where customers were wooed by the free Reliance-to-Reliance calls. Fourteen years later, we see a similar strategy for subscribers consuming data: free and high speeds.
K = Kanhaiya
Campus politics is the ideal springboard for those looking to cut their teeth before joining the big league. In what should have been quietly dealt without help from the outside, they ended up losing ground and face. They ended up rolling out the red carpet for comrade Kanhaiya and catapulting him to national limelight.
L = Legion
It is a hacking group with no sense of humour whatsoever. It appears that the brains behind the hacking of Rahul Gandhi’s and the Congress party’s Twitter account are an excited bunch of pre-pubescent teens fuelled by Red Bull or concoctions stronger. Their distaste for the left of centre was evident by the accounts that were targeted, including prominent journalists. The profane-filled personal attacks on Rahul was another sign of stunted mental growth.Their threats of leaking purported confidential are yet to fructify.
M = Mahishasura
JNU was in the news again, this time for celebrating Mahishasura Martyrdom Day. Referring to a pamphlet published by students, Union Minister Smriti Irani accused those behind the event of having a ‘depraved mentality’ for portraying Goddess Durga in poor light. What was little known is that Mahishasura is celebrated rather than despised in a few Indian communities.
N = National Anthem
The lessons from JNU failed to portend the level of jingoism that pervades the common collective, and even the judiciary seemed to be immune to it. The directive passed by the learned bench of the apex court appears to have passed the baton to the Bhakts and also heightened the fear of being attacked for not standing up during the National Anthem. It is anathema to the notion of democracy.
O = Opposition or the lack of it
A spirited Opposition might have stalled House proceedings, but failed to mount a strong attack against the government outside parliament. Even a united Opposition fell like a pack of cards when regional differences came to the fore and exposed the fractures within. With the numbers of the Congress decimated in both Houses, Opposition needs fresh faces to lead its vanguard.
P = Pellets
Delhi never lost sight of the need for fortifying our borders and clamping down on militancy. Their efforts have often been blindsided by talk of friendship and the need to rebuild burned bridges with neighbors. The Valley has always been caught in this crossfire and excessive policing touched a raw nerve and ignited passions. Some damage has been more permanent than any other. All wounds don’t heal.
Q = Queue
Standing in long serpentine queues became the country’s favourite pastime in 2016. Mera number kab ayega also became the most overused phrase in an attempt to highlight the hardships. Those standing in queues experienced a whole gamut of emotions in company of others. Patriotism of a few was also questioned, not withstanding retired army veterans. Many also took pride in serving the country, just like the jawan guarding our borders.
R = Rohit Vemula
A Dalit scholar who strived to follow in the footsteps of American astrophysicist Carl Edward Sagan was pushed to commit suicide when the university he was studying in cut off his course stipend and forcibly evicted from his hostel accommodation. The discrimination did not end there. His very identity was questioned by raising doubts over his Dalit background. An inquiry was even commissioned to determine his antecedents. A Union Minister even refreshed our memories by reminding us of her background in television by delivering a speech that was lauded as ‘Satyamev Jayate’.
S = Surgical strike
Seeking details about the precision of the strike was considered as an act of blasphemy, with the individual in question condemned for asking questions or raising doubts. It was said that the Army is beyond reproach and criticism. Proof or no proof, the issue snowballed into a politically-charged debate and thankfully the firing along the border was soon confined to within our television studios.
T = Trump
What began as a joke quickly morphed itself into a campaign built on a maze of lies. Facts were either thrown out of the window or distorted to the extent that they were accepted as truths. A candidate who was brushed aside as a sideshow Bob, managed to tap into the undercurrent that was invisible to the mainstream media. He successfully capitalised on the fear of the Other and captured the Oval Office. Trump will now occupy the same seat from which Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared war on Hitler.
Dalits refused to skin dead cattle in protest against gau rakshaks thrashing a Dalit family in public. Protests erupted in Una and across the state of Gujarat. In some cases, Dalit activists attempted suicide by consuming poison. Dead cattle carcasses were left to rot in front of government offices. The issue rocked the Parliament and a debate on growing atrocities against Dalits was taken up.
V = Vijay Mallya
The Kingfisher abandoned its nest that was safely cocooned within bank ledgers. After defaulting on loan payments, the King of Good times sought refuge in the cold, depressing environs of London’s Mayfair. But the long arm of the law might just tap him on the shoulder and yank him back to India. If not, there is always Legion to snoop into his tweets.
Nusli Wadia got caught in the turf war between former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry and interim chairman Ratan Tata. He was unceremoniously dumped as independent director of Tata Chemicals after siding with Mistry. Wadia hit back with a criminal defamation suit against Tata Sons for tarnishing his image.
X = We racked our brains but couldn’t find a word. Let’s us know in the comments if you can think of any.
Y = Yadavs
This never-ending family feud has all the ingredients of a Bollywood potboiler. The position of the family patriarch is challenged by fresh blood, thereby pitting brothers against brothers and fathers against sons. With elections around the corner, Yadavs need to directly address The Elephant in the room. Are they surrendering Uttar Pradesh to Mayawati?
Z = Zakir Naik
The preacher’s name cropped up during the probe into the Dhaka terror attack case as one of the terrorist was purportedly inspired by his speeches. This lead to revoking of licenses for broadcasting his channel ‘Peace TV’. Indian authorities also cracked down against his charity organisation Islamic Research Foundation.