For millions of individuals worldwide, the year 2020 was a series of unforeseeable events. From coronavirus to cyclones to tension at Indian borders and economic disruptions, the entire year contained world-changing and paradigm-shifting developments. In India, the pandemic, protests and political face-offs, dominated the news space. As 2020 comes to an end, here are the top 10 contentious political developments.
In September 2020, both the houses of parliament passed the farm bills amid protests by the opposition parties and a longtime ally of the ruling party. Opposition legislators raised slogans, tore documents and tried to grab the speaker's microphone in the upper house of parliament before bills were passed by a voice vote. While the government said the law will make it easier for the farmers to sell their produce directly to big buyers, the Opposition slashed the bills and called them "anti-farmer" and "pro-corporate". On September 24, the controversial bills got the President's assent and they became laws. And with it, the political face-off too intensified. While the Opposition continued to attack the government, and urged to repeal the "black" law, the government accused the Opposition of "misdirecting" the farmers.
Protesters for and against the controversial citizenship law clashed in Delhi killing 53 people and injuring over 200. The violence came mere hours before United States President Donald Trump was expected in Delhi. Protesters threw stones, set vehicles and shops ablaze and transformed parts of the national capital into a war zone, forcing the deployment of security personnel to ban large gatherings in affected areas respond with lathicharge and tear gas shelling. Within a few days of the unfortunate incident, the political blame game too kicked in. While Congress president Sonia Gandhi demanded the resignation of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, under whose control Delhi Police rolls up, Mr Shah said Congress had no right to point fingers at any party, given its track record. The political tension deepened with Mrs Gandhi calling the riots "conspiracy" and Union ministers hit back by saying "politicising this violence is wrong". Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Centre too had a face-off over the Delhi riots where the statements by political leaders focused on blame-game rather than confidence-building measures.
Actor Kangana Ranaut Vs Maharashtra State:
Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut's statement on Mumbai police created a political divide. Ms Ranaut locked horns with Maharashtra's ruling Shiv Sena and its party leaders after she expressed her distrust in the Mumbai Police in view of actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death. The actor also compared Mumbai with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). While the Congress, Shiv Sena and other parties slammed the actor for her remarks and asked her not to return to Mumbai, BJP and one of its ally backed the film star. The verbal tussle became dramatic with Centre approving Y+ security cover for the 33-year-old actor and Shiv Sena-led Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) demolition parts of her Mumbai office.
India-China Clash Along LAC In Ladakh
20 Indian soldiers were killed in action, and 76 injured, after a clash with Chinese troops that started late in the night on June 15. The violence, the first to claim lives since four Indian soldiers were killed in Arunachal Pradesh in 1975, led to a rapid escalation of tension between the two countries. There were casualties on the Chinese side as well, but the numbers have not been declared by Beijing.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and other leaders soon launched a series of attacks on the government over the "violent clashes". While Mr Gandhi accused PM Modi of "surrendering" to Chinese aggression along the border, BJP slammed the leader for trying to politicise the issue by making statements that are "weak on facts" and "strong on mudslinging". Mr Gandhi also asked the Centre why soldiers were sent "unarmed to martyrdom". Hitting back at Mr Gandhi, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar told him to get "the facts straight". Mr Jaishankar said that the army cannot use firearms during faceoff as per 1996 and 2005 agreements. He also added that is why the Indian soldiers refrained.
Ram Temple Foundation Ceremony Amid Pandemic
On August 5, coincidentally the first anniversary of the revocation of special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir, PM Modi laid the foundation stone for the construction of a Ram Mandir. Calling it a day that marked the freedom of Ramjanmabhoomi from the chain of "destruction and resurrection", PM Modi said that it is an emotional moment for India. However, the event faced severe criticism from the opposition parties. NCP chief and former Union minister Sharad Pawar hit out at the groundbreaking ceremony for being scheduled in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Hyderabad MP and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi questioned PM Modi's invitation as the chief guest for the ceremony. He said it is a violation of PM's constitutional oath and goes against the secular fabric of the country.
Late Night Cremation Of Hathras Rape Victim
In September, the politics over the alleged gang-rape by four upper-caste men escalated when UP Police "unceremoniously" cremated the victim of the Hathras rape case around 3 am without the consent of the family. Furthermore, UP police, which comes under the state government, didn't let media or opposition party leaders meet the victim's family. However, after a dramatic episode, Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi met the family of the victim in their second attempt. While the BJP said the Congress doesn't care about the welfare of the people and has a "political agenda" in everything it does, the Congress accused the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh of being insensitive in dealing with the incident and the protests that followed.
"Love Jihad" Law
The anti-religious conversion law, which came into force in the form of an ordinance on November 28, is seen as giving legal teeth to the BJP's battle against so-called 'love jihad', the unproven conspiracy theory that Hindu women are being falsely enticed and converted by Muslim men. When Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's government okayed the ordinance, proposing a maximum punishment of 10 years for "love jihad" related offences, it triggered a political row.
While BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis said incidents of "Love Jihad" were taking place in the country and therefore, laws to curb the practice were justified, the Opposition accused the governing BJP of pursuing "communal agenda". BSP President Mayawati too asked UP government to reconsider its new anti-religious conversion ordinance. "The new ordinance introduced in haste by the UP government against love jihad is riddled with doubts since religious conversion through compulsion or fraud has found no acceptability or respectability anywhere in the country," The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief said in a Hindi tweet.
Palghar Mob Lynching
Barely 125 kilometres from Mumbai, a small village in Maharashtra's Palghar district reported a horrific case of mob lynching in April. Three people, including two Sadhus, were attacked and killed after rumours that they were kidnapping children to harvest organs, including kidneys. The incident placed former Maharashtra allies BJP and Shiv Sena against each other at a time when the nation was fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. First the BJP attacked the Sena over the Palghar killing, then the Sena hit back after two sadhus were murdered at a temple in UP, a state ruled by the BJP. Condemning the lynching of the two sadhus (sages) in the neighbouring Palghar district, the Shiv Sena said the incident was an attempt to malign Maharashtra's image and it was "inhuman" to give it a communal colour. Opposition came down heavily on Uddhav Thackeray government and criticised its handling of the case. The Shiv Sena condemned the killings and said it was "inhuman" to give it a communal colour.
Migrant workers faced multiple hardships because of the coronavirus-induced lockdown across the nation. The major Opposition parties questioned the Centre's "poor" handling of the pandemic and sought compensation for the migrant workers who died during the lockdown. To repair its image dented by the allegations, the ruling BJP soon took various measures to help migrants and later arranged transport for them. Congress also raised the migrant crisis issue, to attack the NDA, during a poll rally Bihar in Bihar. Speaking on the crisis of lakhs of migrants forced to walk to their states after losing their homes and jobs in the coronavirus lockdown, Mr Gandhi said: "He says he bows before mazdoors (labourers) but when they really need him, he does nothing. You kept walking, thirsty and hungry, for thousands of kms, but Modi-ji did not give you trains. The (government) said you die, I don't care."
Online Streaming Services Brought Under Centre's Regulation:
In November, the government issued an order bringing online mediums, including films and news content, under the ministry of information and broadcasting. Meaning online streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, among others would be now regulated by the Centre. It soon became a social media frenzy with critics claiming that the move will have adverse consequences as it could kickstart an era of more frequent and stricter censorship on online content. Several Bollywood filmmakers too criticised the government's order and called it "unacceptable". Karan Anshuman, director of 'Inside Edge', and 'Mirzapur' tweeted that viewers and creators should come together and challenge censorship.