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10 Events Since Independence That Changed India Forever

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It’s been 70 years since India secured independence from the British, yet seven decades on, the country continues to be afflicted with poverty, corruption, caste discrimination, communalism among other things.

Since independence, there have been many important events which have changed the post-colonial experiment called India. From the communal riots like the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 and the 2002 Gujarat riots which attempted to laugh at Indian secularism to the implementation of the Mandal Commission which ensured that the marginalised were incorporated into India’s story of development, there have been many incidents.

In the 70th anniversary of a country which is home to every sixth person in the world, YKA brings 10 events which had an enormous impact on India.

1. India-China War Of 1962

In the midst of trying to get back up on its feet after around 200 years of colonial savagery, India faced the inhumanity of war. Communist China, another post-colonial experiment like India took advantage of India putting its military on the backseat and attacked on October 20, 1962, in Ladakh. In about a month, on November 21, around 80,000 Chinese troops got the better of an unprepared Indian military which numbered anywhere around 10,000-20,000.

The war left an indelible mark on both the nations and its effect can still be felt today. As the two countries debate and discuss the Doklam standoff, came the controversial statement from the Chinese media that “India will suffer great losses than in 1962” if a war were to break out today, suggesting just how much the war continues to impact Indo-Chinese relations.

2. India-Pakistan War Of 1971

The India-Pakistan War was just a 13-day war but it resulted in the creation of Bangladesh from what was called East Pakistan. The Pakistani state was unable to come to terms with the fact that majority of Bengalis in Pakistan were not sympathetic to its idea. It resulted in a military assault by the Pakistani army which claimed anywhere between 26,000 and 3000000 lives.

The Indian government took the side of the majority of Bangladeshi people. It aided the Bangladeshi resistance movement. And finally, on December 3, 2016, when the Pakistan Air Force attacked airfields in the western part of India, India officially declared war the very next day. On December 16, the East Pakistan army surrendered, giving birth to the nation of Bangladesh.

The creation of Bangladesh has changed India’s geopolitics forever, Even though India has had way more friendly relations with Bangladesh than Pakistan, sharing of Teesta river water continues to remain a pressing socio-political concern.

Pakistani commander AAK Niazi signing the instrument of surrender in Dhaka. Image source: Wikimedia commons.

3. The Emergency

Indian democracy received its most major assault till date on June 25, 1975, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared Emergency in the country and every fundamental right that an Indian citizen cherished was locked away safely till March 21, 2017, when the country could finally breathe democracy again.

Many of the leaders who went to jail protesting the Emergency went on to change India’s political and social landscape forever. It included politicians such as Lal Krishna Advani and Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Indira Gandhi. Image source: India Today Group/ Getty Images

4. Anti-Sikh Riots Of 1984

The Operation Bluestar to free India from the grip of the Khalistani militants in the first week of June 1984 offended many people belonging to the Sikh community. On the orders of Indira Gandhi, The Golden Temple in Amritsar, one of the holiest sites in the Sikh religion had been attacked with tanks and troops, since the militants had taken shelter there.

Indira Gandhi’s two Sikh bodyguards assassinated her on October 31, 1984. What followed was mobs taking revenge on thousands of Sikhs who had absolutely nothing to do with her assassination. It is believed that at least 2,733 people were killed in Delhi. However, different parts of the country were afflicted by the violence too. It included cities like Kanpur, Kolkata, Bokaro and Delhi.

The popular memories of the massacre continue to influence the politics in Punjab today and also the nation at large. Both state elections in Punjab and national elections are fought invoking the memories of the communal violence. Some of the court cases related to the riots are still in progress even after more than 30 years of the riots.

5. Implementation Of The Mandal Commission By VP Singh

After India gained independence, it was recognised that Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes had been exploited and there was a need to provide them with reservations in educational institutions and jobs. However, the Other Backward Classes, who comprised of a large section of India’s population had not been integrated into the wheels of social justice.

But all of this changed on August 7, 1990, when Prime Minister VP Singh announced that the Mandal Commission report had been accepted. The report, which was submitted in the year 1980 had recommended 27% reservation for OBCs at each and every level of service.

Millions of young people whose ancestors had been forced to take up certain specific jobs were now knocking on the doors of India’s best universities. This brought enormous socio-economic and political prosperity for many in the country.

However, not everybody thinks that it was the right thing to do. Many believe that reservation for OBCs leaves out other meritorious candidates belonging to upper castes. Many anti-reservation protests have taken place in the country ever since the Mandal Commission was implemented, while there have been protests by communities like the Marathas and Patidars to be included within the OBCs. Mandal continues to shake India 27 years after its implementation.

6. Liberalisation In India

The Union budget presented by then finance minister Manmohan Singh on July 24, 1991, has to be the most historic budget in Indian politics. It paved the way for the economic reforms which liberalised the Indian economy. India was going through a balance of payment crisis which made the government take this radical decision.

The idea was to break free from the license-raj which made it an uphill task to conduct business due to government interference. Indian economy became more integrated to the global economy. Competition had successfully entered the Indian market. Without the markets having opened up, India would never have become one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

7. Demolition Of The Babri Masjid In 1992

Mobs influenced by the ideology of Hindutva were unable to digest that more than 400 years earlier a Muslim ruler had the audacity to destroy a Ram temple, where the god is believed by some to have been born.

Hindutva mobs were mobilised by Hindu nationalist outfits like Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party since the 1980s to rally for the cause of building a Ram Temple in place of Babri Masjid, a mosque built during Mughal emperor Babur’s reign in the 16th century. On December 6, 1992, thousands of karsevaks got inside the temple complex and destroyed the mosque.

The demolition of the Babri Masjid was a symbolic tear in the secular fabric of India and has paved the way for increased communal violence in the country. The Bombay riots of 1992-93 were a direct consequence of the demolition of the mosque. Before the politicisation of the Ram Mandir, the BJP won two seats in the Lok Sabha during the 1984 Lok Sabha elections. Today, it governs the country.

8. 2002 Gujarat Riots

On the morning of February 27, 2002, a train returning from Ayodhya to Gujarat carrying Hindu pilgrims was set on fire in a conspiracy by more than 30 people. Fifty-nine Hindus were killed. Similar to the anti-Sikh riots, riotous mobs did not hesitate to kill innocent Muslims who had nothing to do with the Godhra train carnage.

In the riots which followed for at least three days, at least over a thousand people were killed, the majority of whom were Muslims. Many believed Narendra Modi, the then chief minister to have either having orchestrated the riots or not having done enough in his capacity to stop it. However, an investigation was carried out on the behest of the Supreme Court and there was no prosecutable evidence to prove that he was involved in the riots.

The Gujarat riots has had a major impact on Indian politics today. Many questioned whether someone like Narendra Modi, who had grave allegations against him should be made the Prime Minister of the country.

The riots did not stop him from being re-elected as the chief minister in December 2002. He went on to become India’s Prime Minister in May 2014.

9. 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks

The terror attack which began on November 26, 2008, is popularly known as 26/11.

Multiple bombings took place in different parts of the city, the Chhatrapati terminus railway station was attacked and terrorists infiltrated into the Taj hotel. Overall, 166 people lost their lives in a terror attack carried out over a period of three days by ten terrorists.

Before 26/11, terrorism had never been covered the way it was done in this case by the media. It had become an integral part of public discourse. There was live coverage of the confrontation between the Indian security forces and the terrorists. Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist captured alive by the police was later hanged on November 21, 2012.

10. Narendra Modi Becoming The Prime Minister In 2014

After the results of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections were announced on May 16, 2014, two important records were broken at once. For the first time in India’s electoral history, a political party other than the Congress had a majority in the Lok Sabha as the BJP had won 282 seats and the Indian National Congress, India’s oldest political party was reduced to its all-time worst tally of 44 seats.

However, what made Narendra Modi being elected as the Prime Minister different were the grave allegations on him regarding his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots and the BJP’s politics which many consider to be ‘communal’. Narendra Modi’s rise ensured that more than a 125-year-old political party involved in India’s freedom struggle was in shambles.

Narendra Modi. Image source: Vijayanand Gupta/ Getty Images

These are ten of the incidents which we thought has had the most impact on India since independence. However, you may think differently. If you think there is an event that should have made it to the list do let us know in the comments.
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Featured image source: Vijayanand Gupta/ Hindustan Times via Getty Images, India Today Group/ Getty Images/ Wikimedia commons
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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