The year 2016 began with a bang for India with terrorists from across the border entering the high security Pathankot Air Force base on the New Year day and its end marked the close of the deadline for deposit of old currency notes under the contentious demonetisation scheme which affected all citizens of the country. The first-ever attack on an Air Force station in the country would have lasting implications for security while the severe tremors caused by demonetisation would have a lasting impact on the countryâ€™s economy and the way we live in the future.
Between the two landmark events, and many more important developments that affected the country internally as well as internationally, the year would go down as a watershed year for the country in the modern history. While the National Investigation Agency (NIA) probing the Pathankot attack has filed the charge sheet in the case in December, many vital questions remain unanswered and the country is no where closer to getting the conspirators punished. The NIA has named Pakistan based terrorist Group Jaish-e-Mohammad and its head Maulana Azhar Masood as the main conspirators. The agency has also submitted documents and other evidence collected from the attack site to prove that the terrorists had come from Pakistan. It has even named the four terrorists.
However, the charge sheet is silent on two main points. One was the contradictory statements from the union home ministry on the actual number of terrorists involved. It had initially claimed that there were four of them but subsequently the union Home Minister had claimed that there were two more. The encounter had also carried on after the confirmed death of four terrorists. The agency has now said in the charge sheet that they had evidence of only four terrorists involved in the attack. The other major development during the year- the demonetisation â€” has evoked a mixed response. A section of economists have claimed that it wonâ€™t have any major impact on the economy in the long run. The government had also been shifting goalposts regarding the aim behind demonetisation. It initially emphasised that it was aimed at curbing black money and root out corruption. Subsequently it began emphasising on its aim to shift the economy to the digital mode.
The jury is still out on what would be the ultimate gains of demonetisation but it is certain that its ripple effects would continue for a long time. The poor roll out of the scheme resulted in long queues across the nation outside banks, post offices and ATMs. It would take a few more months before the restrictions on withdrawal of money would be lifted and normalcy in banking operations would be restored. Besides the two landmark events this year, the jat agitation in Haryana led to an unprecedented flurry of violence in the northern state. The state remained in the grip of lawlessness leading to several deaths and mass scale looting and arson. Army had to be called out before peace was restored in the state.
Its neighbouring poll bound state came into news a little later when its politicians made a mockery of the inter-state water agreements and scrapped the controversial SYL canal. The Punjab Assembly passed a Bill restoring land, which was earlier acquired to construct the canal, back to the owners. The issue has gone back to the courts but may be raked up during the poll campaign.
In another neighbouring state, Jammu and Kashmir, the death of chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed bright in uncertainties for the alliance partners BJP and Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP). Ultimately his daughter Mehbooba Mufti took over as the chief minister two months later but the Valley saw an unprecedented violence. Most parts of Valley remained for months under curfew or were closed down to to hartal call given by the locals. Scores of youngsters were killed in firing after they repeatedly indulged in stone throwing at the security forces.
The state also saw the second major terrorist attack on a military establishment in the country when terrorists attacked the army camp at Uri. About a dozen army personnel were killed in the attack. This subsequently led to a surgical strike across the border, the first one of its kind in which the authorities formally announced it, and led to an escalation of Cold War with Pakistan. A large number of skirmishes on the border were reported in the subsequent days.
Elsewhere in the country, politics dominated the debate as elections were held in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. BJP grabbed power in Assam for the first time ever while Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and J Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu retained power. The Left wrested power from the Congress in Kerala. Thus it proved to be bad year for the Congress as it got confined to just five states, all small states except Karnataka.
A major political loss this year was the death of Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa. Her death sparked off mourning across the state and reportedly nearly 100 of her supporters died due to shock. Her funeral was attended by thousands of mourners and top political leadership of the country.
Two other events of notable importance related to judiciary and the armed forces. For the first time ever the Chief Justice of India broke down in public while lamenting shortage of judges. CJI T S Thakur did it in the presence of primer minister Modi. The judiciary and the executive could not resolve their differences over selection of judges.
For the second time in the countryâ€™s history, the government decided to supersede two officers to appoint the four senior in the seniority as the next Army chief. Lt Gen Bipin Rawat was named the new Chief of Army Staff.
The year saw two major international events which would affect India in the shorter and longer run. The first was the Brexit under which the Britishers voted to come out of the European Union. India shall have to re-formulate its foreign policies in the wake of the decision. It would also impact the trade and commerce involving India on the one hand and the UK and EU on the other. There are possibilities of some major India Inc offices moving out of UK for greener pastures in Europe.
The other major event, which shook not just the US but the entire world, was the election of Republican Donald Trump as the next President of the United States of America. Indiaâ€™s relations with the US, as indeed of almost all countries, are bound to be affected by the policies adopted by the new president who is considered unpredictable and who may take decisions which would have world wide ramifications.
Modi had developed a good relationship with US President Barack Obama and the two had met nearly half a dozen times during the past two and a half years. Modi has extended his hand of friendship to the incoming President too. The silver lining is that traditionally Republican presidents have remained more inclined towards India than those belonging to the Democratic Party.