The year 2016 saw a bitter US presidential election, the Syrian civil war taking a bloody turn in Aleppo and the demonetisation scheme announced by the Narendra Modi government. While it is the time to look forward and see what the new year has in store for us, it is also the time to look back and see what the world went through in the last 365 days.
The whole world watched in anticipation as Britain voted to leave the European Union. The Brexit decision, a shorthand for Britain and exit, was sealed after the country voted on June 23. In the referendum, 52 per cent voted for leave, while 48 per cent voted for remain. A total of 30 million people cast their ballot.
The immediate impact was such that the world markets saw major fluctuations as the results were being announced. What turned out to be more fascinating was the voting demographics. Reportedly, more young voters preferred remain, while the elderly voted for leave, highlighting a divide which some termed to be unfair for the coming generation of Britain. Following the results, David Cameroon resigned as Prime Minister of Britain and Theresa May took over. She has said that she will trigger the process of leaving EU by the end of March 2017.
Turkey coup attempt
On the intervening night of July 15 and 16, people in Turkey witnessed sudden terrifying chaos as a faction of the military tried to overthrow the elected government in an attempt to seize power from Presidnet Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Overnight, the rebels announced that it had imposed curfew and martial law and that the preparation for a new constitution had begun. Meanwhile, President Erdogan urged his supporters to take to the streets to protest against the military crackdown. The coup, which needed support from public and other factions of the army, failed as majority decided to throw their weight behind the President.
With the advent of ISIS or ISIL, the middle-eastern region has seen some of the deadliest terror attacks so far. However, 2016 also saw the spread of these terror acts throughout the world with a new technique called ‘lone wolf attacks’ being adopted. The US witnessed the deadliest terror attack since 9/11 as a gunman opened fire in an Orlando nightclub killing 49 and injuring over 50. Apart from that, coordinated attacks took place in Brussels in March killing 32 civilians and 86 were killed in Nice, France during Bastille Day celebrations on July 14. Over 100 such incidents were reported across the world in 2016 including suicide bombings in neighboring Pakistan in March, 2016 in which 75 people were killed. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also raised the issue of global terror threat at UN General Assembly in September.
The Aleppo offensive
Aleppo, one of the oldest cities in the world located in Syria, has been a battlefront between the rebels and Bashar-al Assad’s forces as both of them try to overpower each other. The civil war in Syria has so far caused thousands of deaths and forced civilians to flee the region. The horrors for around 320,000 civilians trapped in Aleppo continued with the Assad regime carrying out a siege with help from Iran and Russia blocking essential supplies into the city.
The Aleppo offensive launched in late September by Syrian forces was met by another offensive in late October by the rebel forces in an attempt to establish a new line of supply. The people of Aleppo, in order to draw attention to their sufferings, took to social media in December sharing goodbye messages amid reports of torture, execution and rape by the military.
US elections and rise of Donald Trump
Many believed US elections hit a new low as Donald Trump, during his campaign for the post of president, openly advocated banning of Muslims and spoke against other minority groups. The vote count on November 9 and the result came as a shock to many as Donald Trump managed to win the elections. However, his rival Hillary Clinton bagged more popular votes. Trump’s victory did not bode well for many as protests broke out in different parts of the country with the dissenters chanting ‘not my President’.
The killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani on July 8 pushed the Valley into an abyss leading to a series of clashes in which dozens of Kashmiri protesters lost their lives and thousands were injured, some blinded by the pellet guns used by forces. On the other hand, the security forces also suffered heavy injuries inflicted by stone pelters. Kashmir unrest, this year, stretched for the longest time period with curfew bringing the Valley to a standstill. Schools and public offices remained closed and basic supplies were hit.
In 2016, with Kashmir unrest at its peak, the relation between India and Pakistan hit a new low as a series of terror attacks targeted Indian security forces by militants coming from Pakistan. In a retaliatory step, Indian forces conducted surgical strikes along the Line of Control on September 29 destroying the terrorist launch pads operating within Pakistani territory.
Pollution and smog
Several parts of north India, including the national capital Delhi, woke up to a thick smog cover on October 31. The unprecedented smog cover, which did not fade away for coming days, alarmed everyone and brought to everyone’s attention the hazardous levels of pollution.
The level of PM 2.5 and PM 10 in several parts of New Delhi reached 10 to 15 times more than normal levels. The National Green Tribunal rapped the state and Central governments for showing laxity in dealing with the problem which was directly related to people’s health. The situation also triggered a debate regarding different measures that need to be adopted to control the emission of pollutants in the air.
Perhaps the biggest shock that struck Indian people and impacted the entire population of the country was the sudden announcement of demonetising Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8. The move, according the government, was aimed to counter the problem of black money hoarded in the form of cash and counterfeit currency used to fund terror groups.
However, within days of the announcement, long queues outside ATM kiosks and banks for withdrawing cash and exchange of notes showed that the fight against black money was not going to be easy for the common man. Opposition parties came together and launched protests against the government inside and outside Parliament criticising it for the ‘lack of preparation’ and ‘poor implementation’ of the scheme. Some even went on to call it the ‘biggest scam of the year’. The government, however, maintained that the results of demonetisation will start reflecting in the long term.