2015 was an iconic year for politics, gender and equal representation. It was also momentous because of the way we as a people reacted to both natural disasters and violent acts of terrorism. The human spirit emerged victorious in spite of it all. As our freedom of speech and expression stood threatened, voices defending the same got louder. And while we still need learn and unlearn many a lessons, these 21 moments from 2015 are an attempt to look back at a glance, at the year that was…
1. Nepal faced its biggest disaster till date, with earthquakes in April and May
Earthquakes in Nepal in April and May killed close to 9,000 people and injured thousands. Villages near the epicentre were flattened and thousands were left homeless. Experts suggest that it will take a few years to rebuild Nepal’s economy in the wake of this disaster.
2. Sania Mirza became the first Indian woman to win a double’s grand slam after her Wimbledon victory and Saina Nehwal became the first Indian woman to be World No. 1 in badminton!
3. On her period, Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon without a tampon and shattered menstruation taboos!
In India too, there was a nationwide campaign against menstruation taboos, after 20-year-old Nikita Azad’s letter on Youth Ki Awaaz went viral and challenged the age-old stigma of menstruation women not being allowed in temples.
4. Delhi became the most polluted city of the world.
With air pollution in Delhi rising to a threatening level and the Delhi High Court calling the city a ‘Gas Chamber’, a ‘red alert’ is issued by the Delhi government and measures to reduce pollution are being set in place.
7. The displacement of Syrian refugees became the worst refugee crisis the world has seen since the Rwandan genocide in 1994
Three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body was washed ashore when the boat he and his family were travelling in capsized. Those who stand to lose the most from all this are the Syrian children, for whom home and family have been all but shattered, leave alone their education and future careers.
8. 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested from his school in Texas for building an electronic clock that ‘resembled a bomb’.
Ahmed’s arrest led to worldwide outrage as this was a clear example of racial profiling and Islamophobia leading to the outrageous notion that “all terrorists are Muslim”. Post this, US President Barack Obama condemned the incident and invited Ahmed to the White House.
9. Viola Davis became the first woman of colour to win the Emmy Award for ‘Best Actress In A Drama Series’
Viola Davis gave a stirring speech after her win stating that the biggest thing that separates women of colour from anything else is opportunity. She added, “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
10. Writer M. M. Kalburgi was murdered, leading to a raging debate on freedom of speech and expression in India.
After Dr Kalburgi was shot dead, many writers, scientists and filmmakers across the country returned their state-conferred awards in protest. A nationwide debate on intolerance arose, with various protests all over the country.
11. An angry mob attacked and murdered Mohammad Akhlaq, a man in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, after accusing him and his family for eating beef.
Akhlaq’s death caused a huge uproar all over the country. Along with the imposition of a beef ban in some states across the country, this incident started a nationwide debate on religious intolerance and atrocities committed against minorities in India.
12. A Youth Ki Awaaz visual started a global conversation on abortion rights.
As part of our #AbortTheStigma campaign, illustrator Maitri Dore made this visual that reached close to 5 million users online and garnered more than 170,000 reactions from people across the world. Various conversations about sexual and reproductive health rights and a woman’s right over her own body started because of this visual and they continue till date.
14. Nitish Kumar became the Chief Minister of Bihar for the third time
In what was considered a historic election, Nitish Kumar won Bihar Elections 2015 and took over his third term as Chief Minister. The elections were important also because it was a defeat for BJP, a significant one considering PM Modi’s landslide victory in the 2014 General Elections.
16. Suicide bombings in Lebanon, Beirut, killed over 40 people.
The suicide bombings in Lebanon were the worst terrorist attacks in Beirut since the end of the Lebanese Civil War. They happened on November 12, 2015, a day before the Paris Attacks. There was heavy criticism on the difference between the reactions to both the attacks with the media and governments being questioned about whether the lives of citizens in first-world countries matter more than others.
18. Chennai faced the worst floods in a 100 years.
In November and December, the city of Chennai battled with the worst floods in almost a century with close to a 100 lives being lost. However, human spirit defeated this calamity as organisations and relief initiatives were set up in real time to prove help and people across the country contributed to these efforts in numerous ways.
19. Members from India’s LGBT+ community came together in Delhi to celebrate pride and raise their voice against Section 377.
The 2015 Delhi Queer Pride March was proof of how discriminatory laws can’t dent LGBT pride in India. With the Indian Parliament recently rejecting MP Shashi Tharoor’s bill to scrap Section 377, this is a crucial time for the fight for equality to continue.
20. Canada PM Justin Trudeau created history by welcoming Syrian refugees as Canadian citizens
“Tonight, they step off this plane as refugees, but they walk out of this terminal as permanent residents of Canada,” Trudeau said. The Prime Minister also made news for his Cabinet, which is the most diverse in history. When asked why he chose the ministers who he did, he said, “Because it’s 2015!”