From a suicide bomber attack on military personnel in Jammu & Kashmir's Pulwama district to violent clashes and protests over the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, India was shaken by a number of incidents in 2019. There also were some landmark events like the 2019 Lok Sabha elections — the world’s biggest democratic event — and the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (Isro’s) launch of the Chandrayaan 2 lunar mission.
Days before the year draws to a close, we look back at some of the key events in economy, politics, space and judiciary that defined 2019 for India:
Pulwama attack/Balakot strike
Soldiers examine the site of an explosion in Pulwama district in February. Photo: Reuters/file
On February 14 this year, 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu & Kashmir when a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying explosives into their bus in Pulwama district. The attack left the nation in shock and the retaliatory move saw India striking a militant training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot. In a pre-dawn action on n February 26, a group of Mirage 2000 Indian Air Force fighter jets took down major JeM terrorist camps on the other side of the line of control (LoC). During the action following the Balakot air strike, an Indian fighter jet piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was shot down in aerial combat by the Pakistan military. Varthaman was held captive for 60 hours and later released, in a big diplomatic victory for India. The Vir Chakra gallantry award was conferred on Varthaman in August.
Lok Sabha elections 2019
The Lok Sabha elections were held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19 this year. The result of Lok Sabha elections, on May 23, brought a landslide victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which bagged 303 seats. This was the first time in 35 years that a single party had returned to power with a majority in the lower House of Parliament. Led by Narendra Modi, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came back for a second term at the Centre with a greater majority than in the first term. While the main Opposition party, Congress, was able to make some improvement to its tally from 2014, the gain was not a significant one. On the day of the election result, the benchmark BSE Sensex and the National Stock Exchange’s Nifty50 indices cheered Modi’s return to power and touched record intraday highs.
National Register of Indian Citizens (NRC) in Assam
People check their names on the draft list at the National Register of Citizens centre at a village in Nagaon district
The final list of updated NRC, released on August 31, excluded nearly 1.9 people in the northeastern state of Assam. In the final draft of NRC, out of 33 million applicants, 31.1 million were found to be eligible for inclusion in the updated NRC, and 1.9 million were barred. The excluded people approached the Foreigners' Tribunal with an appeal against their non-inclusion. The Assam government assured that people who were not in the final list of NRC would get legal aid.
Abrogation of Article 370
Srinagar: Commuters seen on a road near Lal Chowk on the 30th day of restriction after abrogration of the provisions of Article 370, in Srinagar, Tuesday, Sept 3, 2019. Photo: PTI
On August 5, the Modi government issued a constitutional order to scrap Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which gave the state of J&K a special status. Later, the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act was passed by Parliament to split the state into two Union Territories — Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. The reorganisation took place on October 31, 2019.
Isro’s Chandrayaan 2 lunar mission
GSLV-MkIII-M1 rocket carrying Chandrayaan-2 lifts off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, at Sriharikota in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh | Photo: ISRO
On July 22, the Chandrayaan-2, the second lunar mission developed by Isro, was launched. India’s heaviest rocket GSLV Mk-III, nicknamed 'Bahubali', lifted off successfully from Sriharikota. The rocket reached the moon's orbit on August 20, and started the orbital positioning manoeuvres for the landing of the Vikram Lander. Vikram Lander and the Pragyan Rover were scheduled to land on the moon on September 6. However, Isro scientists lost communication with the Vikram lander moments before it was about to touch down on the moon. After a month-long search, US space agency Nasa located the crash site with the help of Indian software architect Shanmuga Subramanian.
Govt’s corporation tax rate cut
In a major move, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in September announced sharp cuts in the corporation tax rate. The government decided to slash domestic corporation tax rate to an effective 25.17 per cent, inclusive of surcharge and cess, in a bid to promote growth and investments amid an economic slowdown. The government proposed to reduce the rate from the existing 30-25 per cent to 22 per cent for all domestic companies.
Landmark Ayodhya land title suit verdict
A statue of Hindu god Rama stands beside the River Sarayu in Ayodhya | Photo: PTI
On November 9, a Supreme Court Bench led by the then Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, said in a unanimous verdict that the 2.77-acre disputed land in Ayodhya should go to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas for construction of a Ram temple. It also ordered that the Muslim side should be compensated with five acres of alternative land at a prominent place in Ayodhya to build a mosque. The apex court also asked the government to frame a plan and set up a trust which would construct the temple in Ayodhya.
Opening of the Kartarpur corridor
A view of Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019 | Photo: PTI
On November 9, PM Modi inaugurated the Kartarpur corridor on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, and flagged off the first batch of over 500 Indian pilgrims. The Kartarpur corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of the Sikhism founder, with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab. The prime minister also inaugurated the passenger terminal building of the corridor on the Indian side, also known as the Integrated Check Post, where pilgrims would get clearance to travel through the newly-built 4.5-km corridor.
Hyderabad rape-and-murder case and the killing of four accused
Hyderabad: Police at the site of an alleged encounter, where four accused in the rape and murder of a veterinary were shot dead, on the outskirts of Hyderabad, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. (PTI Photo)
On November 28, the country woke up to the news of gangrape and murder of a 27-year-old veterinary doctor in Hyderabad. She had been gangraped by four people and brutally murdered on the night of November 27. The four accused in the case were taken to the scene of the crime on December 6, allegedly for the reconstruction of events as part of the investigation. They tried to snatch the weapons of policemen and flee but were killed as the police opened fire in retaliation. This rape incident triggered a nationwide uproar and people condemned a spurt in crime against women in recent times, and demanded strict laws to punish the guilty within a fixed time-frame.
Nationwide stir against Citizenship (Amendment) Act
Protest at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. Photo: PTI
In December, Parliament passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), with 311 favouring votes in the Lok Sabha and 125 in the Rajya Sabha. The Bill became a law after receiving the assent of President Ram Nath Kovind. The Act, which grants citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who came to India from Muslim-majority Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan before 2015, received opposition from a cross-section of the political spectrum and citizenry. It led widespread protests across the nation, mainly in Assam, Delhi, and West Bengal. Protestors staged strikes, set vehicles afire, took part in sit-in movements, blocked streets and indulged in clashes.