The year 2019 will go down as the year in which India was changed forever. The Central Government over the course of one year has taken a series of decisions that have altered the fundamental nature of the Indian State for the foreseeable future. In this article, we review the decisions of the Central Government that have made 2019 one of the most, if not the most, consequential year in the history of Independent India.
1. The Balakot Airstrikes
The Balakot Airstrikes raised the costs of Pakistan’s ‘Bleed India with a thousand cuts’ strategy by several folds. For decades, it has been the preferred strategy of Pakistan. Numerous terrorist attacks have happened since the dawn of this century which went unanswered by the Indian government. However, when Narendra Modi assumed power in 2014, there was enough indication that things were about to change.
Following the Surgical Strikes of 2016, it was almost taken for granted that Pakistan will have to pay for the Pulwama Terror Attack. No one really doubted that Pakistan will be made to pay, the only question was when and how. And the Balakot Airstrikes answered that question perfectly.
The most significant aspect of it was the fact that India had definitively called out Pakistan’s nuclear bluff. In a nightmare scenario for Pakistan, India’s nuclear-capable aircraft carried out the airstrikes at Balakot, which is less than 200 km via road from Islamabad and less than 70 km from Abbottabad.
Amidst everything that happened, two quotes by Narendra Modi about the entire series of events sum up how India’s response to Pakistan had changed fundamentally. The Prime Minister said, quite famously, “Ghar me ghuske maarengey” and on another occasion, he said while referring to Pakistan’s penchant for threatening India with nuclear war, “Don’t we have nuclear weapons also? Humney Diwali ke liye rakha hai kya?” It proved conclusively that the relationship with Pakistan will never be the same again.
2. The anti-Triple Talaq Act
Given everything else that has happened in one year, it is one of those things that doesn’t receive sufficient attention. But the passage of the Bill was the first sign of the things that were in store for the country. It was for the first time in a great many years, since the opening of the locks of the Babri probably, that the fundamentalist sections of the Muslim community were overruled by the democratic institutions of the country without any manner of negotiations whatsoever.
The Secular Parties were entirely opposed to it, and crucially, the Bill safely passed through the Rajya Sabha despite great opposition. It was the first indication that the second term of the Modi government will be radically different from its first term. Even so, the value of the passage of this Bill was more symbolic than any real benefit for national interests. The biggest indication of it was that the BJP had a working majority in the Rajya Sabha for more crucial bills.
3. The Abrogation of Article 370
The abrogation of Article 370 was the first core agenda that was fulfilled by the Modi government within three months of Amit Shah’s reign as the Home Minister of the country. It was a testament to the rising stature of India in global politics that despite Pakistan’s continuous wailing and screaming, absolutely no one apart from the usual suspects paid them any attention. The world by and large was in India’s favour.
Domestically, the Indian Government demonstrated that it was willing to do everything necessary in order to secure national interests. There was considerable opposition from the Congress party and its ilk but once again, the BJP found the necessary numbers to ensure the passage of the required bills through both houses of the Parliament. The conduct of the Opposition parties revealed abundantly that it won’t support the BJP even when the saffron party was acting in the national interest.
Regardless, the Indian government took several hard steps to preemptively weaken the chances of riots by putting several local leaders under house arrest or preventive detention. As a consequence, despite a few hiccups, things went much better than expected and Kashmir has been gradually returning to normalcy.
4. The Ram Mandir Verdict
It’s a fact that the verdict was delivered by the Supreme Court but it’s also a fact that the government handled the situation remarkably well. It is for a reason that the verdict wasn’t delivered conclusively in favour of the Hindus despite the overwhelming evidence in all these years. It is only when a Hindutva government was elected with a thumping majority in two consecutive elections that the Judiciary received the confidence required to deliver a fair verdict.
It was another of the core issues in the BJP manifesto that was fulfilled during 2019 and really set the mood for bigger and better things. It was the end of a historic battle that has been waged for centuries and it came to an end during Narendra Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister. Although the verdict was delivered by the Supreme Court, the manner in which the government handled security matters post-verdict is worthy of commendation in its own right.
5. The Citizenship Amendment Act
The entire series of events, right from the tabling of the Bill to the passage of it and the events that followed, the CAA brought out into the open the fundamental contradictions that have plagued the Republic of India for all these years. Rationally speaking, there was nothing remotely radical about the law. The CAA was the fulfilment of sacred vows that were sworn when the state of India came into existence.
Jawaharlal Nehru knew it, Rajendra Prasad knew it, even Gandhi knew it. But it is testament to the spectacular mismanagement of the country by the Congress party that we have produced a generation of uncouth youth who are completely unaware of the oaths that were sworn when India was partitioned. The Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists could come to India from the newly created Islamic State anytime they chose, they were told, and yet when decades later, the Indian government decided to honour its promise by granting them citizenship, the entire intellectual elite of this country had chosen to side with Islamic Extremists rather than the persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
The government’s defence during the entire matter revealed that the BJP is firmly committed to the ideals of Hindutva. Home Minister Amit Shah again demonstrated his great ideological clarity and made it clear through his words that in his view and by extension, in the view of the Prime Minister, India is the natural homeland for Hindus across the world. That is the most fundamental ideological shift the country has witnessed since its inception.
Foundations for a New India
There is an age-old saying, a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In addition to these five big decisions, the government took numerous other conspicuous decisions that made it clear that India had changed forever. All of these decisions ought to be viewed in their entirety as a Gestalt. These are not policy decisions but the decisions that were made in the manner in which the government and the ruling dispensation decided to conduct itself.
1. The Media Ignored
For instance, the manner in which the Government completely ignored the blackmail tactics of the mainstream media and the liberal establishment and remained steadfast in its path towards achieving their objective. The ruling dispensation did not give in to the bullying tactics of the liberal establishment, from both India and abroad, and went about doing what it set out to do without caring two hoots about those who did not care much about democracy but only ensuring that liberal policies are implemented regardless of who is in power. These tactics were put to rest. The current ruling dispensation does not care about what the liberal establishment has to say about them. The party of Hindutva was elected by Indians, a Hindutvavadi government is what Indians will receive.
2. The Street Veto Bluff
Secondly, and more importantly, the bluff of Islamic Extremists was called by the Modi government in the wake of the anti-CAA protests. The media was touting it to be a students’ revolution when, in reality, it was the Khilafat 2.0. Needless to say, the uprising was crushed by the government without mercy. Time and again, Islamic Extremists have attempted to hold the Indian government hostage by the often unsaid threat of violence. After the passage of the CAA and the NRC looming around the corner, vested interests attempted to grind India to a halt and bully the government into taking back the CAA-NRC juggernaut. The government did not budge.
Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka were hit by mob violence for the longest period. In West Bengal, the violence was great but it fizzled out when they rampaging mobs were made to realize that it was only benefitting the BJP. In the two states and the national capital, the Police are under the control of BJP governments at the states and centre and the Police did what was necessary to quell the violence.
Yogi Adityanath, apart from the Home Minister, was one person who shined through the chaos. By the time the anti-CAA protests fizzled out, Islamic preachers were begging the administration for forgiveness and were voluntarily paying for the damage to public property, in addition to the notices that have already been served by UP Police. This was a great climb down from the “Ladke lengey Azadi” slogans and the chants of “Chheen ke lengey Azadi” that were raised during the protests.
3. New Equations with the West
The most significant, perhaps, is the manner in which the Indian government has stopped giving a damn about how the Western world perceives us. The clearest example of it was when MEA Jaishankar, in a manner that typifies the nonchalant arrogance that has become the hallmark of his interactions with the press, said casually that he had no intentions of meeting a US Congresswoman after saying that she had gotten basically everything wrong about what the Indian government was doing in Kashmir.
MEA Jaishankar has emphasized during his interactions with international institutions that the West needs to come to a new understanding with India. He has reiterated that the current ruling dispensations sees the world differently than previous governments and relates to it differently than them. He has also emphasized that the West and India, both, need each other and therefore, there was a need to develop a new understanding between the two.
A New Dawn
The Five Big Bang decisions of the Modi government combined with the manner it has conducted itself has set the tone for the coming decade. In many ways, the next decade could prove to be the most pivotal decade in the history of Independent India for generations to come. But when history books are written in the future, they will say that it was in 2019 that India was changed was forever.
The government was asked many difficult questions during the course of the year. But it took all of these questions and challenges head-on and came out with flying colours. The Opposition asked, “How far are you willing to go to implement your policy objectives?” “To hell and back,” the government replied calmly. “What are the sacrifices you are prepared to make for the sake of your Hindutva ideology?” “Whatever it takes.”
And as we stand on the verge of a New Year and with that, a new decade, 2019 truly has been the Dawn of a New Age.