From Missile Man to Chennai’s spirit: People who made an impact in 2015
With 2015 drawing to a close, here are ten personalities from the country who made news. Some left a mark on us, some drew the public’s wrath and some brought appreciation and applause. Take a look.
1) Manik Sarkar, Tripura chief minister
The chief minister on his own withdrew the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which gives unlimited powers to security forces to shoot at sight, and make arrests without warrants.
AFSPA was imposed in Tripura in 1997 following a spurt in militant violence. But over the last few years militancy-related incidents have decreased considerably in the state, while the ability of the police to take on militants improved. In March 2015, Operation Hifazat -- Army’s operation against militants in the North East -- was called off in Tripura
Sarkar’s bold decision has rekindled the demand that AFSPA should either be repealed or changed.
In an interview with journalist Shekhar Gupta, Sarkar said: “We approached the extremists. Asked them to come to dialogue, talk to us, if you don’t like to talk to us you can talk to the Government of India. We shall not oppose that, rather we shall try our level best to convince the Government of India to talk to you....These extremist outfits, they have been formed and misleading the tribal youth in particular.
The Centre welcomed his stand.
2) Manabi Bandopadhyay, India’s first transgender college principal
India got its first transgender college principal when Manabi Bandopadhyay took charge at Krishnagar Women’s College in West Bengal’s Nadia district on June 9.
But this is not the only thing the country will remember her for. In 1995, she published the country’s first transgender magazine, Ob-Manab (sub-human, which continues to survive even now despite a low circulation. Bandhopadhyay has also authored a Bengali novel on eunuchs – Endless Bondage -- which went on to become a national bestseller, and is now set to write a tell-all memoir.
Born as Somnath in a middle class family in the suburbs on Naihati in North 24 Parganas district, Bandopadhyay underwent a sex-change surgery in 2003. “For me, it’s a long battle against ignorance,” she once said.
3) APJ Abdul Kalam, People’s President, India’s Missile Man
In the death of APJ Kalam, India lost not just one of its most beloved elder statesmen, but a scientist who led from the front make the country stronger.
Dr Kalam served as president for five years from 2002, enjoying the support of both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress. He was closely involved in the country’s civilian space programme and military missile development efforts, which earned him the sobriquet ‘India’s Missile Man’.
A role model for students and young people, Kalam was always happy to be among them. He breathed his last in July, in the premises of an educational institution.
RIP Abdul Kalam, an indebted nation salutes you.
4) The spirit of the people of Tamil Nadu #ChennaiFloods
In December, Tamil Nadu reeled under the worst-ever floods to hit the state in recent years. But capital Chennai emerged as an epitome of bravery and unity. People came together across political, religious and caste lines to help the state. They opened their doors to those in need, and shared whatever little food there was.
In the face of adversity, Chennai showed us what an ideal India is like.
The state ran with no electricity, no mobile connectivity and barely any food, but still managed to sail through. It will be weeks, probably months, before the state recovers from the devastation, but the people continue to stand tall, relentlessly helping, never complaining.
5) Student activists behind Pinjra Tod (Break the Cage) campaign
A campaign by college students of Delhi that challenges hostel rules, but has implications that reach far beyond as it seeks to rewrite the script on women’s access to public space.
The protest was against sexist university rules -- a fallout of increasing sexual violence in the national capital --which force women to return to their dorms as early as 7.00 pm while their male counterparts can stay out much longer.
Apart from students of the Delhi University, those from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Ambedkar University are also part of the Pinjra Tod campaign. This is second such campaign at the university-level. The previous one, ‘Pad against Sexism’ found widespread support across the country.
6) Hardik Patel, the man who kept Gujarat on its toes
The low-key 22-year-old man emerged as the face of the Patels’ demand for reservations in Gujarat after he addressed a rally in Ahmedabad in August attended by half a million people.
Convenor of the ‘Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti’, Patel became a force to reckon with in almost two months, as his community pushed for reservation in government jobs and colleges under Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.
A vocal supporter of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Patel has threatened to “teach” the BJP a lesson in the 2017 assembly polls if the party ignores the community’s demand. “If this government does not heed our demands, the lotus will not bloom in 2017,” he has warned.
7) Virender Sehwag, the Nawab of Najafgarh
One of India’s greatest opening batsmen, Sehwag announced his retirement from international cricket as well as from the Indian Premier League (IPL) in October this year.
In a glorious international career spanning over 12 years, the `Nawab of Najafgarh’ played 104 Tests scoring 8586 runs at an impressive average of 49.34, with 23 centuries and 32 half-centuries.
He is the only triple centurion in Tests for India, having scored a quickfire 309 against Pakistan at Multan in 2004 and following it up four years later with a 319 -- India’s highest individual score in international cricket.
8) Gajendra Chauhan
Students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune went on a strike from June 12 to protest the I&B ministry’s appointment of television actor-turned-politician Gajendra Chauhan as chairperson.
The students complained that Chauhan -- whose body of work included just B grade Bollywood films and TV serials -- lacked the stature of predecessors such as Shyam Benegal and Girish Karnad. They received the support of eminent personalities from the world of cinema and literature, who felt Chauhan’s appointment was part of a right-wing agenda by the central government
The strike lasted for 139 days -- the longest in an institute which has seen around 40 agitations. But Chauhan survived with help from his political masters.
9) Suresh Prabhu, railway minister
The Indian railway minister has proven his prowess by quickly responding to demands and complaints of rail commuters on Twitter. He personally forwarded petitions to officials and made sure they were acted upon.
The minister’s Twitter handle is flooded with complaints that have met with prompt responses. Among many incidents, Prabhu managed to provide a wheelchair to an elderly passenger, rescued a woman from being harassed, provided milk for an infant, and supplied food and water to 27 students on a train that was running late.
10) Salman Khan, Bollywood actor
The Bombay high court on December 10 acquitted Bollywood actor Salman Khan of all charges in the 2002 hit-and-run case, quashing a trial court verdict that held him guilty of driving his Toyota Land Cruiser over people sleeping on a Bandra footpath.
The court said the prosecution failed to prove the actor was driving the vehicle on the night of the accident. While Salman’s fans openly showed their happiness at the judgment, many people expressed their disappointment on social media.