From Republic Day protests in Delhi in January to the recent Nagaland civilian killings – 2021 saw numerous significant events in India. The year brought with it the unprecedented Delta-fuelled second wave of COVID-19 that overwhelmed the country’s health system and killed tens of thousands of people. Here is a recap of the most noteworthy events in India:
- REPUBLIC DAY PROTESTS
On January 26, tens of thousands of protesting farmers had clashed with the police in New Delhi during a tractor parade to highlight their demands. Many of them driving tractors reached the Red Fort and entered the monument, where a religious flag was also hoisted. Over 500 police personnel were injured. Protesters scaled the historic monument’s walls, raising a banner beside India’s national flag. Over 300 barriers were shattered, and 17 government cars were destroyed. Many people, including farmer leaders, were outraged by this deed, which they described as an unfortunate incident.
- COVID-19: INDIA’S OXYGEN CRISIS
Within three months of India starting the world’s largest vaccination drive on January 16, the second wave of Covid-19 devastated the country, and by April 30, India was reporting over four lakh new cases and 3,500 deaths a day. Amid oxygen shortage and a crumbling medical infrastructure, India hit a new low with two lakh deaths in May. Many international news publications believed that the number of dead was severely undercounted. According to a report in NPR, an additional 3.4-4.7 million people died during the pandemic in India, over 10 times the official death toll of 4.14 lakh.
- PANDORA PAPERS
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists leaked 11.9 million files containing the names of politicians, businessmen, and celebrities from over 200 nations and territories on October 3. The documents pertained to how prominent people amassed wealth in secret offshore assets. The list included the names of over 300 Indians, including famous businessmen, sports figures, and movie stars, like industrialist Anil Ambani, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and megastar Amitabh Bachchan.
- PUNJAB POLITICAL CRISIS
Punjab saw a major political crisis this year as Amarinder Singh, one of the strongest regional satraps of the Congress, stepped down as the state’s Chief Minister. The 79-year-old submitted his resignation along with that of his council of ministers on September 18, ahead of the assembly polls early next year. Singh said that he felt ‘humiliated’. Charanjit Singh Channi became the first-ever Dalit leader to hold the CM’s post in the history of Punjab.
- LAKHIMPUR KHERI VIOLENCE
On October 3, four farmers protesting the farm laws and a journalist were mowed down by an SUV allegedly carrying BJP workers in Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh. The main accused in the case Ashish Mishra, son of Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni, was later arrested along with three others. In the violence that followed the incident, some people were lynched and vehicles set ablaze.
- ASSEMBLY POLLS; MAMATA SWEEPS BENGAL
High-stakes assembly elections were witnessed in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry. While the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress retained power in Bengal for the third consecutive time, the Left Democratic Front headed by Pinarayi Vijayan made the first re-election in 44 years in Kerala. In Tamil Nadu, MK Stalin’s Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam dethroned incumbent Edappadi K Palaniswami’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliances won in Assam and Puducherry.
- PEGASUS ESPIONAGE
In July, a leaked database of Israeli surveillance technology firm NSO Group, which was accessed by a Paris-based media nonprofit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, was shared with 17 media groups from 10 countries. The database included the list of government clients to which Pegasus, spyware, was sold. More than 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers, including those of opposition politicians and journalists, were on the list of targets for surveillance. Prominent among them were Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, political strategist Prashant Kishor.
- FARM LAWS REPEALED
On December 9, farmers called off their agitation after the government sent them a letter accepting most of the demands. Earlier, on November 15, PM Narendra Modi, in a televised address, had apologized to the farmers and announced the repeal of the three laws. A fortnight later, Parliament passed the Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021. The Centre also agreed to form a committee on Minimum Support Price and withdraw all cases against the farmers.
- NAGALAND CIVILIAN KILLINGS
14 people were killed on December 4 in firing by the security forces during a counter-insurgency operation in the Mon district of Nagaland. Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that the case was of the ‘mistaken identity’ as Army had received information on the movement of extremists in Oting, in Mon district, and on suspicion of the vehicle carrying extremists, it was fired upon. The army apologized for the incident and initiated an inquiry, even as the state saw massive protest rallies and the clamor to repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
- RISE OF OMICRON
Just when the worst of the pandemic seemed to be over, the World Health Organization warned that a new Covid variant Omicron has been detected. Omicron has spread across the world in the past few weeks crushing hopes of life returning to normal. As many as 422 Omicron cases have been detected across 17 states and union territories in India so far and 130 of these people have recovered or migrated, according to Union health ministry data on December 26.