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Year of tragedy and triumph

Khushwant Singh gives a recap about major incidents that took place in 2007- a year marked with triumphs and tragedies.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2007 19:44 IST

New Year’s day coincided with Bakr Eid. It was foggy, clouded and cold with the temperature down to four degrees. But the sensex warmed up crossing the 14000 mark and two weeks later making a record with 14217. Not all was well; in Assam, over 65 Bihari labourers were killed by ULFA terrorists. In Uttar Pradesh, Ajit Singh and three of his partymen quit the government hoping to end Mulayam Singh’s rule but failed. Skull-duggery of politicians was brought to light by the Supreme Court which unseated 11 MPs for taking money to put questions in Parliament. A majority of them were from the BJP. Meanwhile, we had the first Dalit, K. G. Balakrishnan, elected Chief Justice of India. Middle of the month was the Ardh Kumbh, almost one million devotees washed their sins in the Sangam at Allahabad.

Obits included industrialist L.M.Thapar (78) Hindi novelist Kamleshwar (78) and music composer O.P.Nayyar (86).

Reception on Republic Day hosted by our High Commissioner in Islamabad narrowly escaped turning into a major tragedy. A suicide bomber blew himself and a security guard before the guests arrived.

Vladimir Putin, Premier of Russia, paid a two-day visit to India.

Our cricket score was even. We lost the series to South Africans. Won the other against the West Indies.

The event of the month which drew national attention was Abhishek Bachchan’s marriage to the beauty queen Aishwarya Rai.

As the winter loosened its grip, things began to warm up in the country with right-wing communal parties re-asserting themselves. Shiv Sena with Bal Thackeray’s son Udhav, instead of the recalcitrant nephew Raj, won the Mumbai Municipal Corporation elections. More significant was the Akali-BJP alliance defeating the Congress-led government by Captain Amarinder Singh and forming government in Punjab under Prakash Singh Badal with his son Sukhbir waiting in succession and nephew Manpreet named as finance minister. The BJP-led by road-builder General Khanduri also ousted the Congress from power in Uttaranchal. Of the three states that went to the polls only Mizoram stayed with the Congress.

A tragedy yet to be unraveled was bogeys of the Samjhauta Express catching fire at Panipat, 65 men and women, mostly Pakistanis, on their way home perished. The month’s casualties included S.C. Shukla (82) former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and Sham Lal (95), retired editor of the Times of India.

The decision of the Cauvery River Waters was welcomed in Tamil Nadu but caused much heart-burn and protests in Karnataka.

March saw resurgence of Naxalite and Maoist (I am not sure of the difference) in Central India. Member of Parliament Sunil Mahato and his bodyguard fell victims in one part; 55 were killed when they attacked a police post in Bastar (Chhattisgarh). Violence also erupted in Nandigram (West Bengal) inspired by the irrepressible and ill-tempered Mamta Banerjee when 11 farmers protesting against acquisition of their lands were shot by the police.

I

ndian cricket touched an all-time low when licked by the lowest rated Bangladesh team. A mob pelted stones on M.S. Dhoni’s house. The casuality of the month was U.G.Krishnamurthy, fiery spiritualist, orator who died in Italy, aged 89. His last rites were performed by film producer Mukesh Bhatt.

On April 1, Laurie Baker (90) who designed homes for the poor and had made India his home died at Thiruvananthapuram. Three days later Jagjit Singh Chauhan (80) founder of the Khalistan Movement dies in his village Tanda. Anyone who thought BJP was a spent force was proved wrong; it swept the Delhi Municipal polls. More uplifting was the success of our scientists. They sent one missile, two satellites into space.

May was eventful. India’s biggest state was won by Mayavati’s Bahujan Samaj Party ousting Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi, with BJP in the third position and Congress in the last. In Punjab, orthodox Sikhs were up in arms against the head of Dera Sacha Sauda for having imitated Guru Gobind Singh in dress and ritual. Protests passed off peacefully except for clashes in Ambala (Haryana). More sinister was an explosion in Hyderabad Makka Masjid, killing 12 worshippers. Police remained clueless about the culprits. The monsoons hit our coasts on schedule in June. Unscheduled were large-scale protests by the Gujjars of Rajasthan demanding reservations and privileges granted to Meenas and Jats. They started end of May in Rajasthan when six people lost their lives, and spread to Haryana ending in a day’s bandh in Delhi. Pratibha Patil of the Congress and Governor of Rajasthan was named by her party as its candidate for Rashtrapati — the first woman ever to be named head of the republic.

A bigger surprise was the Knighthood conferred by the Queen of England on Indian-born author Salman Rushdie who still has a few fatwas sentencing him to death hanging over his head. The main casualty of June was Jat leader of Delhi, Sahib Singh Verma, who was killed in a car accident on the last day of the month.

Telephone proposal

Arun Vihar Institute at Noida is a typical cantonment club where tambola, housie, bingo are played every Sunday and films screened in open air theatre every alternate Wednesday.

The club has a very well-informed receptionist who is diligent and discreet. One day I rang up to find out what film they were showing next Wednesday. I found the receptionist evasive and reluctant to name the movie. She transferred the call to the security room and the security guard gave the name of the movie. It became clear why the receptionist was shy to disclose the name of the movie. The movie was — Mujhse Shaadi Karogi.

(Contributed by Trilok
Mehrotra, Noida)