The year 2019 turned out to be one of the most eventful in India’s history. The first half of the year was centred on the Lok Sabha elections with political leaders crisscrossing the country for election campaigns. The run-up to the polls also saw farmers hitting the streets with a range of demands.
But it was in the latter part of the year that the protests gathered steam after the Modi government was re-elected with an even larger majority. The passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament inflamed passions, initially in the Northeast and subsequently in other parts of the country.
With the country still embroiled in protests as we enter the New Year, here’s a look at the major stirs that rocked the country in 2019:
The first major protest of the year was led by farmers. There was pent-up anger among farmers across the country throughout 2018 over unfulfilled promises, especially over the issue of farm loan waivers, leading to kisan marches.
In 2019, they came out on the streets again. Farmers in Maharashtra took a long march to Mumbai seeking a response to the distress in the farm sector.
Farmers from Uttar Pradesh also marched to Delhi with a range of demands including implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report.
Doctors in Bengal
The doctors' protest in June lasted over a week but managed to create a stir across the country.
It all began when two junior doctors were assaulted at Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata by an enraged mob.
On 10th June, an elderly man passed away at the hospital and the relatives alleged it was due to medical negligence.
On that night, a mob of 200 people assaulted the doctors who handled the case leading to a statewide protest by doctors in West Bengal for a week.
The protests got support from doctors and hospitals across the nation.
On August 5th, the central government revoked the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir with the abrogation of Article 370. The government also decided to turn Jammu and Kashmir into a Union territory.
The decision created a furore with the opposition attacking the government for taking the decision without consulting the people of the state and also keeping J&K leaders under detention.
Although SMS services are being restored from midnight on December 31, the Internet shutdown in the former state continues.
A wave of protests, inspired by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg, hit the globe over the lack of action on growing problems arising from climate change.
Ahead of the UN Climate Summit on September 23, the wave hit India, with students, working people and even parents hitting the road in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi and other major cities to raise awareness and support the protest.
The protests against chopping down trees in Mumbai’s Aarey forest reminded people of the ‘Chipko movement.’ It brought young people onto the streets, right before the Maharashtra elections, putting the Fadnavis government in an uneasy situation.
The Maharashtra government wanted to cut down trees in the Aarey forest for the construction of a car shed for the Mumbai metro which triggered protests against the government and the issue reached the doors of the Supreme Court.
Before the Jamia students hit the roads, Delhi’s streets were occupied by JNU students protesting against the draft hostel manual which proposed an increase in hostel fees, changes in curfew timings, dress code etc.
The move was seen as a decision against BPL students and was termed anti-poor. The protests went on for weeks with some violent incidents. The JNU administration eventually relented and approved a partial rollback but it did not pacify the students.
The matter is now with the HRD ministry as the students want the total recall of the draft manual.
The protest by Telangana State Road Transport Corporation workers began on October 5 and lasted for over two months. The TSRTC employees unions insisted on the implementation of 25 demands like the merger of the corporation with the state government, adding more buses and payment of dues among others.
The KCR government took a strong stand against the demands and threatened to dismiss all the employees if they didn’t return to work.
A few workers even committed suicide fearing the loss of their jobs and over salary dues.
The strike hit the general public who suffered the most without public transport.
After much discussion, KCR announced benefits for the workers on December 1st and assured that none of them would be sacked.
Delhi police and lawyers
On November 2nd, at Delhi’s Tis Hazari court, a clash erupted among lawyers and police due to a dispute over parking space. In the clash, the lawyers attacked policemen inside the court complex.
On November 6th, policemen and their family members hit the streets to protest against the violence. After 11 hours, the police finally called off their protest following assurances from senior cops.
On the other hand, the lawyers also demanded action against the police and refused to go to work for over 10 days.
Citizenship Act + NRC
Ever since the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, protests have cropped up across the country.
On December 15, students of Jamia Millia Islamia University held a protest outside their campus against the Citizenship Act which turned violent after a clash with police.
Police entered the campus and used tear gas, injuring over 50 people.
The entry of police inside the university campus led to strong reactions with students protesting against the move nationwide.
On the other hand, people of the Northeast also hit the streets against the CAA. At the same time, the government's insistence on an all-India NRC also drew ire.
Police firing took place in a few places leading to the deaths of over 20 people.
Despite all this, the protests haven't died down and look like they will continue into 2020.