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Thursday, November 30, 2023
HomeEditorial2019 ended with violence and protests, let’s hope for better 2020

2019 ended with violence and protests, let’s hope for better 2020

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Results for India’s general election released on 23 May saw a landslide victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which increased its huge parliamentary majority. Narendra Modi and his ruling BJP have swept back to power. The party won 303 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s parliament, bettering the 282 seats they won in 2014 – a performance that not many thought was possible. At the same time, Assembly elections were not much favourable for the party. They lost in all major states.

Since 2014, the scenario in India is quite different. People are divided in ideologies and more than that they are divided in two groups, one is blind Modi supporters and another group is blind critics. His supporters are hell bent on supporting him no matter his decisions go right or wrong, they are not much worried about the people at large but remain his worshippers. On the other hand, the critics, they have to attack BJP, Modi and especially RSS just because they hate rightwing politics. India is democracy; I don’t want to question the integrity of people but being a media person would like to state few facts by speaking my mind. During 2019 India was not at peace, most of the time there was protest and unrest and still, Modiji won elections with a huge mandate for second time. India upholds a robust electoral democracy with a modest multiparty system at federal and state levels, though politics are beset by corruption. The constitution guarantees freedom of expression and the social media are vibrant, they are speaking and propagating their strong voices; whereas, news media has gone voiceless and biased in recent times. However, harassment and violence against journalists have increased under the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right-leaning, Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), as have religiously motivated attacks against non-Hindus. India’s minority groups—notably Muslims, Scheduled Castes (Dalits), and Scheduled Tribes (Adivasis)—enjoys legal equality and sometimes benefit from affirmative action programs. However, they remain economically and socially banished.

The private media are vigorous and diverse, and investigations and scrutiny of politicians are common. Nevertheless, revelations of close relationships between politicians, business executives, and lobbyists, on one hand, and leading media personalities and owners of media outlets, on the other, have dented public confidence in the press. Authorities have used security, defamation, and hate speech laws, as well as contempt-of-court charges, to curb critical voices in the media. Hindu nationalist campaigns aimed at discouraging forms of expression deemed “anti-national” have exacerbated self-censorship, and some media observers have suggested that media reporting has become less ambitious in recent years. Journalists risk harassment, death threats, and physical violence in connection with their work. Such attacks are rarely punished and some have taken place with the complicity or active participation of police. The advocacy organization Reporters without Borders (RSF) identified four incidents in which police attacked journalists in March 2018 alone; each of the incidents involved journalists attempting to cover protest actions. Deadly attacks against journalists are increasing. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), five journalists were killed in India in connection with their work during 2018, four of who were murdered and one of whom was shot upon becoming caught in a firefight between Maoist militants and police.

Four journalists had been killed in connection with their work in 2017, and two in 2016, according to CPJ. While Hindus make up about 80 percent of the population, the Indian state is formally secular, and freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed. The year 2018 saw continued attacks against minorities in connection with the alleged slaughter or mishandling of cows, which are held to be sacred by Hindus. The media nonprofit IndiaSpend documented 31 cow-related violent incidents in 2018. Over 120 such attacks, including lynchings, have been reported since Modi came to power, he and the BJP have faced criticism for failing to mount an adequate response. Looking at aggressive outrage Modi gave speech by shedding loads of tears attacking so called cow protectors.

The #MeToo movement came to India more than a year ago, and Bollywood was one of the first industries to be hit by allegations of sexual harassment and assault. It all started when a 10-year-old allegation by actress Tanushree Dutta against a Bollywood actor resurfaced – and it drew both attention and support. Several other women made similar allegations of harassment in the industry.

The citizenship status of millions of mostly Muslim residents in the state of Assam was thrown in doubt in 2018, after a draft of Assam’s NRC released in July failed to include their names. Those affected, largely Bengali-speaking Muslims, must produce documentation that they or their ancestors came to the state before Bangladesh became independent in 1971. Accessing such documentation may not feasible for many poor communities wracked by illiteracy and displacement. While government officials have claimed that Assam’s NRC was being updated to identify Bangladeshis living in India illegally, the government of Bangladesh has not accepted that this population is Bangladeshi, and is unlikely to accept them if India attempts to deport them. Separately, proposed changes to a key citizenship law that would expedite citizenship status for “persecuted minorities” in neighboring countries appear to involve the unequal treatment of religious groups.

The ban was imposed in parts of the capital, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh state and some areas of Karnataka state, including the city of Bangalore. Thousands of protesters were detained in many cities as they turned up in defiance of police orders. Section 144, as the provision is called, authorises officials to prohibit, among other things, a gathering of more than four people if they fear a possible violation of law and order. The law gives powers to state governments and the local police. Breaking the law is a criminal offence. Many believe the law has been misused to try to stifle protests. Constitutional law expert Gautam Bhatia says problems have arisen in reconciling the law with the constitutional guarantee of free speech and the right to freedom of assembly.

A prestigious Indian university is offering a certificate course to teach doctors how to treat people who claim to see or be possessed by ghosts. The six-month course at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in the northern city of Varanasi will start in January. Officials say it will focus on psychosomatic disorders which are often confused with paranormal occurrences. The course will be conducted by the faculty of Ayurveda, the ancient Hindu system of medicine and healing.

In September 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the use of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code to ban homosexual intercourse was unconstitutional. However, discrimination continues against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) individuals, including violence and harassment in some cases.

Colleges’ campus attacked, students were beaten. Rape cases are on the rise but no reaction so far from PM on such brutal incidences. The economy has slow down; inflation has hit the middle class people. Lack of job opportunities to youth and no relief to farmers, Jawans are used for political mileage and nationality has become new tool for violence. Country has changed a lot. There is too much hate and little love for each other. Make in India flopped and smart cities are yet to be seen. Whereas infrastructure is missing but roads are widened, unexpected political combinations ruling uniting against BJP. Lot has changed this year, but still the spirit of Indians is unbeatable. The year ended with lot of violence and cry. Hope to see something better in 2020.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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