Even as we nervously type this at the beginning of the penultimate week of 2013, we are keeping our fingers crossed we don’t miss any upcoming newsbreaks. 2013 has been the year of the “warrior,” as we reiterated earlier. Indians across the length and breadth of this “youngest democracy,” took up arms and have been vociferously exercising their right to freedom of speech. Amendments to archaic laws have been made and struck down, a new state has been created, new bills have been passed. The power holders of the nation who have snugly warmed their seats and some have even set them on fire for future elected leaders to exercise damage control, in the Parliament, the judiciary and even the police. Even as we herald boldly into our most important election year perhaps since Independence in 2014, when the fallacy of India shining seems to started dulling, things couldn’t have been noisier with propagandist coloured change that was brought about this year. In the middle of all this noise, we even launched our maiden inter-planetary travel to Mars, but whether we succeed to land is something left for 2014 to unravel for us. Meanwhile, we sifted through 2013’s biggest headlines and have made a list of the ones that could potentially change India’s future.
Exhausted with archaic laws and insensitive handling of issues such as safety and modesty, the year belonged to securing the dignity of women. The brutal gangrape of a physiotherapy student in Delhi that occurred in 2012, sent ripples of anger through the nation. Candle light vigils and protests later, the Indian Parliament passed The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act in March 2013 that provides amendments to sexual offences in the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The act was passed on the suggestions of the Justice JS Verma panel, that was appointed following the gang rape in in December 2012. The act redefines the charges of crimes that subject violence towards women like acid attack, sexual harassment (which was earlier called eve-teasing), voyeurism, stalking and rape. While empowering women and also the setting up of fast track courts, the late Delhi gangrape victim’s perpetrators were brought to justice by being sentenced to death by hanging. Even the Juvenile Board has had to review it’s laws. Over the year, the violence against women didn’t lessen but victims of sexual violence showed bravado in coming forward and talking about their abuse, leading to a hike in cases reported. A similar one was the a female photojournalist in Mumbai who was subjected to gangrape in August. In November 2013, a former employee of Tehelka magazine slammed the editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal with a rape case, under the new amended law. An intern to Justice Ganguly, a senior Supreme Court judge has also been slammed with a case of sexual molestation.
The UPA government passed a resolution to recommend the formation of a separate Telangana state from Andhra Pradesh in October 2013 in an attempt to close centuries-old chapter of anger and resentment within the community. The Union Cabinet also approved the setting up of a Group of Ministers to go into the various issues which concern both the States including setting up of a new capital for the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. Of course there are still protests and hunger strikes for and against the creation of the state making the UPA government change key points over and over again. On their last year in power, this redeeming effort seems to be akin to having troubled the hornet’s nest. Ah well.
Even as India faced the Naughties’ biggest financial crisis, with onions and tomatoes holding our kitchen’s hostage with soaring prices, inflation and Rupee plummeting to a value of 63 to US $ 1, the UPA government passed it’s last prided act before walking into the dusk in order to ensure some votes from it’s rural bank, passing the National Food Security Bill of 2013. Under the act, beneficiaries who live under the poverty line will be able to purchase 5 kg per person per month of rice at Rs 3 per kg, wheat at Rs 2 per kg and millet at Rs 1 per kg. Touted to be UPA chairperson and Congress’ oldest living Gandhi figurehead, Sonia Gandhi’s pet project that she saw fruition in the coalition government’s last year in office.
OPENING THE FLOOD GATES
Oh how we love and adore corruption and corrupt politicians in this country. As if adulation is not enough and a full access to our tax payers accounts, we even let them openly defy the propositions of Ordinance Bill that prohibited convicted politicians from running for members of Parliament. Hence our scam news columns were filled with many follow ups to 2012’s Porngate scandal. This year we have the illegal coal blocks allocation called the Coalgate and of course Gujarat government’s alleged stalking of a female architect, Snoopgate. scam(gate) wasn’t a term we were familiar with the etymology of pre 2012, otherwise former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav’s guilty conviction this year, a decade after he was chargesheeted in the 2003 Fodder Scam, would’ve been called Foddergate? Some good news this year.
AAP KHUSH HUYEIN?
As a pre-cursor and a dress rehearsal to the national elections in 2014, nine states went to the ballot this year including Delhi, Rajasthan, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Tripura. The ruling and the opposition, which includes the Congress and BJP respectively, brought out their social media driven, “youth-directed” propaganda to the fore front to fight for each and every state. Blame games aside, BJP’s PM candidate, NaMo besides winning himself the abbreviated nickname, also has chanting songs after him. While the two parties milled around, the newsmaking party of the year has been Aam Aadmi Party, headed by Arvin Kejriwal. This week, Kejriwal will be sworn in as the Delhi CM, ending Sheila Dixit’s 15 year rule in the state, Congress party’s most prized seat. Has it been a worthwhile win for the citizens of the state and Centre capital? Only the coming five years of as Kejriwal’s manifesto’s deadline reads, the coming six months will tell.
DARK IS BEAUTIFUL
You know if you’re an Indian, you cannot escape the “fair skin above all things fair” paradigm entrenched in our psychic gene pool since the age of the British Raj. Our advertising and beauty standards have always adhered to the Fair & Lovely and more recently Fair & Handsome ideals. Only recently things got a lot more intimate and deep skinned, when last year vaginal wash and cream courtesy Clean and Dry came out with a patriarchal ad showcasing how even your vagina must be white now. Suffering a distinct blow to their brand equity, this year the same company’s ads though contained a fair-skinned beauty prancing about in a whimsical forest, the whitening effect was completely played down. It was about maintaining your pH balance and all about being gentle to your intimate area, also gentle to your colour maybe? Dusky was celebrated as the highest beauty ideal of the world was now going to be met with a caramel-skinned woman. American citizen of Indian origin who’s roots trace back to Hyderabad, Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss USA 2014. Even as critics reiterated how she was too dark to be a Miss India ever, for the world she pretty much was the most stunning woman.
GAY AND UNLOVED
Yes the unthinkable happened. Or maybe we should have expected it, if 2014 election winning favourites, BJP’s strict Hindutava ideologies are anything to go by. An archaic section of the IPC, section 377 seeks to define and criminalise sex the Indian culture thinks is unnatural. It’s most regressive clauses being homosexuality and oral sex. The Delhi HC’s landmark 2009 judgement to decriminalise section 377 was quashed by the Supreme Court bench of justice GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya in December 2013. It’s once again illegal to be a member of the victimised LGBT community. The UPA government filed a petition with the SC to review it’s judgement in the case, but critics feel it may be too little, too late. The review may not come up in court for another 2 years or so, by which the opposition might come into power. And BJP’s Rajnath Singh’s recent stand of the matter has been very disappointing. It’s a dark day for love.
MAID IN MANHATTAN
Indian diplomat to the US, Devynai Khobragade’s detention and frisking on suspicion of visa fraud has caused diplomatic hospitality between the two nations. Khobragade has been accused of mistreating her Indian maid Sangeeta Richard, whom she flew down to stay with and work for her in NYC, and arrested by US marshals. The Indian government sharply reacted by harassing US diplomats who have been posted in Delhi, by removing their security, holding their ration hostage and a threat of trying some diplomats and their partners under section 377. The battle is still raging between the East and the West.