A year that was defined by several judicial and political milestones, 2019 can be called a “watershed moment” in modern Indian history. The year saw scrapping of the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the state into two Union Territories, Supreme Court order on Ram Temple-Babri Masjid dispute in Ayodhya, crimilasing Triple Talaq and clearing the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act, which led to massive protests across the country. The year also marked the return and dominance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha elections.
For the ruling party, the year that began with a campaign blitzkrieg for the general elections, that saw the BJP securing a clear majority on its own — a first for any party in three decades — ended by facing protests against the amended Citizenship Act and being unseated in Jharkhand.
A look at the events that defined 2019:
🔴 Pulwama attack and Balakot airstrike
In one of the deadliest attacks on Indian security forces, about 44 CRPF personnel were killed when an explosive-laden vehicle rammed one of the buses carrying the forces from Jammu to Srinagar on February 14. Following the template of the surgical strikes after the Uri attack in 2016, IAF conducted an airstrike at JeM training camps in Balakot before dawn on February 26.
A day after the strikes, IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani Army on February 27 after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets during aerial combat. He downed an F-16 fighter of Pakistan before his plane was hit. Varthaman was released on the night of March 1 by Pakistan. The government had called it a “non-military pre-emptive strike” even as the incident led to further deterioration of ties with Pakistan.
🔴 Return of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister
Becoming the first non-Congress Prime Minister to return to power after a full five-year term, Narendra Modi cemented his image as a strong and decisive leader and a poster boy of Hindutva. The ringing endorsement of BJP and Modi can be gauged by the fact that the party won 303 of 542 seats — surpassing its 2014 numbers — and increased its vote share significantly, from 31 per cent to just under 40 per cent.
Modi’s message and relentless campaign on good governance, nationalism, fighting corruption, ‘teaching Pakistan a lesson’ seem to have echoed on the ground despite the fact that his government stuttered on matters of jobs and the economy. The result has led to further marginalisation of the Congress, the decimation of the Left Front — whose vote share plummetted to 8 per cent from 34 per cent in 2014 — and the decline in the influence of regional satraps.
🔴 Criminalising Triple Talaq
Fulfilling one of the core planks of the BJP, the Parliament passed the instant triple talaq Bill in July, two years after the Supreme Court set aside the practice, calling it un-Islamic. Calling it a historic step, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said passage of the triple talaq bill was a victory of gender justice and would further equality in society.
The Triple Talaq law makes giving instant oral triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat a criminal offence, with provisions of jail term up to three years. The woman is entitled to demand maintenance from her husband for herself and her dependent children under the Act. The Opposition parties, however, protested the bill in the House.
🔴 Scrapping special status of J&K under Article 370
The BJP on August 5 fulfilled another election promise of removing the special status for Jammu and Kashmir by diluting Article 370. Besides, the Parliament also passed the J&K Reorganisation Act, bifurcating the state into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, which officially came into effect from October 31.
The decision was followed by unprecedented security deployment, detention of political leaders in their homes, including three former chief ministers and the snapping of communication links.
With J&K losing its special status, laws related to property, criminal laws to crucial central laws like Right to Information & Education will be among the many that will be applicable to the Union Territories. Permanent citizens of Jammu and Kashmir recognised as state subjects, cease to have special privileges.
🔴 SC order on Ayodhya case
A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ruled that the entire disputed land be handed over to a trust to be constituted for construction of a Ram temple and that Muslims be given five acres of either the acquired land near the site or at “a suitable prominent place in Ayodhya” for building a mosque.
“Today is November 9, the day when the Berlin wall was brought down. Today the Kartarpur Corridor was also inaugurated. Now the Ayodhya verdict, so this date gives us the message to stay united and move forward,” PM Modi said hours after the Supreme Court judgment.
🔴 Citizenship Act triggers protests, violence across country
The passage of the amended Citizenship Bill, that makes Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for citizenship in India, triggered widespread protests across the country, leading to 26 deaths so far and prompting the government to downplay its narrative on a proposed National Register of Citizens.
Apart from Assam where the protests first began, Uttar Pradesh is the worst-affected state — where at least 14 of the 19 victims are Muslims who died of bullet injuries. The wave of protests began on December 15, when police stormed the Jamia Millia Islamia University campus, leaving over hundreds of students injured.
Buses and private vehicles were set ablaze, while police resorted to lathicharge and tear gas shelling, and barged into the Jamia campus where they allegedly beat up students in the library and mosque. Two days later, thousands gathered at Seelampur area, where there were reports of stone-pelting and arson.
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