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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.