In July, the monsoons flooded much of the sub-continent including Pakistan and Bangladesh. In Mumbai, a multi-storeyed building collapsed killing 28 residents. However, the main news of the month was the rapidly deteriorating political situation in Pakistan and Bangladesh—both our closest neighbours. In Pakistan, President Musharraf was goaded by both China and the US to take action against Taliban militants in Lal Masjid of Islamabad.
In the encounter, scores of men and women lost their lives. Two days later Musharraf's plane was fired at. A week later a suicide bomber blew up over 91 people in Dera Ismail Khan. More killings followed in Islamabad and the NWFP. At the other end Sheikh Hasina, ex-Prime Minister and daughter Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, founder- father of Bangladesh was arrested by the Army.
Obits included cricketer Dilip Sardesai (67), ex-PM Chandrashekhar and three close friends: industrialist-Sportsman Bharat Ram (93; (his younger brother Charat Ram had passed away a few weeks earlier) and Azim Hussain of the Indian Foreign Service. Two of the assassins of Beant Singh, CM Punjab, were given the death sentence. What made the headlines for some days was the six-year jail sentence given to actor Sanjay Dutt for having unlicenced arms.
August started with cheerful news: India's heart-throb Sania Mirza beat the World Tennis Champion Martina Hingis.
Two days later Hamid Ansari of the Congress defeated Najma Heptullah of the BJP to become Vice President of India.
On Independence Day, died the lively Tarakeshwari Sinha (79) once Deputy Finance Minister; and a week later the erudite scholar of Urdu and novelist Qurratul Ain Hyder, winner of Gnanpith Award. Shibu Soren ex CM Jharkhand and Cabinet Minister who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his secretary was acquitted by the Delhi High Court. Actor Salman Khan was not so lucky. His appeal against sentence of five years jail for shooting a Chinkara was dismissed. The month ended in a tragedy. Twin bomb blasts in Hyderabad took 41 lives.
In September the climate in both Bangladesh and Pakistan deteriorated further. In Dhaka, former PM Khalida Zia was arrested. The next day another attempt was made on the life of President Musharraf. He escaped unhurt but 20 people lost their lives. A week later Nawaz Sharif’s attempt to return to Pakistan was frustrated: he was forced to fly back to Jeddah. Obits included the Gandhian Sant Singh Tegh of Kashmir who died completing his century and Jana Krishnamurthi former President of the BJP.
More cheerful news was the resurgence of hockey. After many defeats in the past, India won the Asia Cup. And the sensex crossed 17,000.
There were two more bombing episodes: one in the Chisti dargah in Ajmer and the other in a Ludhiana cinema. No one had a clue about who was responsible. Two lives were lost in Ajmer, seven in Ludhiana. Among the VIP obits in October were LM Singhvi (77), retired High Commissioner in London, Bommai ex CM Karnataka and Justice Ranjit Singh Sarkaria, author of the report on Centre-State relations.
The biggest sensation of October was a sting operation carried out by Tehelka on perpetrators of atrocities on Muslims in Gujarat following the arson in Sabarmati Express at Godhra. Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was explicitly named as giving them permission to do what they liked.
In November President Musharraf declared Emergency in Pakistan. Among the thousands detained were Asma Jehangir and Aitzaz Ahsan. However, it did not stop Pakistani cricketers' tour of India. A ding dong battle between the two teams with India doing marginally better kept the nation's attention till mid-December with Anil Kumble as the new Captain.
Significant development of the month was the erosion of power and integrity of the CPI(M) government in W Bengal. It started in Nandigram, predominantly a Muslim area. They resisted taking over their farmlands for industrialisation. It led to clashes between the police and peasants in which some lives were lost. The CM apologised for the excesses by his police.
December was marked by electoral battles in Himachal and Gujarat, Congress versus the BJP. Himachal polls went off peacefully. Gujarat's were singularly noisy with CM Narendra Modi at his vituperative worst, spitting venom at anyone opposing him, notably Sonia Gandhi. Both were asked to explain their words by the Election Commission and the Supreme Court. Till the writing of this piece I have no idea what the outcome of the elections will be. I hope and pray they will be good for the country.
I wish my readers a very merry Christmas and Happy 2008.