TIME – a name in world media – made PROTESTER person of the year in 2011. Remember! The same protesters – however – got cannoned and were let down everywhere on the planet – almost e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y throughout 2012 – the worst coming on Aug.16 when the South African police opened fire on striking mine workers killing 34 of them.
Thousands of Greek workers still rallied outside their country’s parliament as lawmakers passed another raft of deep wage cuts and tough labour reforms. And in India, ‘Iron Lady’ Irom Sharmila continued to fast for the 11th year, straight. WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange – a protester of another kind – was granted political asylum by a country many might not be aware of!!! Thank you Ecuador.
Protests were also witnessed in India over cap on LPG subsidy while financial crisis rocked its coveted Kingfisher airlines and pilots struck work in flag carrier Air India. It was Maruti car’s Manesar plant that saw violence after a protest – when the traditional fight between unions and management resurfaced.
Fourteen year-old Pakistani girl Malala Yousufzai protested in her own ways while fighting for her right to go to school. She was then shot in the neck and head by Taliban while on her way back from school. “I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one,” she THUNDERED. Recognising her efforts, the UN declared Nov.10 as Malala Day. But today her entire country needs education for all!!! How do you react to this – Acid poured over a 15-year-old girl by her parents after being seen talking to a man in an honour killing.
In India – right from the start of 2012 – the Coalgate Scam consistently made headlines. But it was a gang rape in a moving bus on the streets of India’s capital New Delhi that actually blackened faces of every MAN for their attitude towards WOMEN and VICTIMS. If the TIME magazine, earlier in the year dubbed Indian prime minister as ‘underachiever‘, this sexual assault on a 23-year-old girl jibed every MAN on the road as ‘useless’.
Further, Indian authorities blamed protesters for clamping a police regime in Delhi after the youth erupted with anger, demanding justice. In the meantime, the brutally treated girl succumbed to her injuries, dying in vain, at a Singapore hospital where she was shifted, clandestinely – mainly for politically considerations. Alas… the politicians survived while the girl died! Do we have such a weak healthcare system that even the government does not trust?
Many may look back in anger as reading news in the modern times is not a happy experience despite accomplishments, big moments, global games, historical elections and some defining moments that reflected on yet another busy year. Anyways! Let us thank 2012 as Greater Voice looks back to share with you as to what captured the world’s attention past year that started with a leap year on a Sunday.
On a positive note, the World Health Organization removed India from the list of polio endemic countries. So the two little drops campaign paid off. The year however saw many deaths, bombings and devastation and also proving to be the deadliest for journalists – an unprecedented 132 casualties reported as a consequence of their reporting.
In 2012, legendary sitarist ‘Bharat Ratna’ Ravi Shankar bid adieu to the world. So did the king of ghazal Mehdi Hassan – conferred with Pakistan’s highest civilian honour ‘Nishan-e-Imtiaz’.
Film industry lost familiar faces of ‘Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen’ actor Achala Sachdev, doting guardian A. K. Hangal, ‘Shagird’ Joy Mukherjee, ‘Babumoshai’ Rajesh Khanna, ‘Hanuman’ Dara Singh and ‘Romance King’ Yash Chopra. ‘King of Comedy’ Jaspal Bhatti also left his common men. Sadly, the ‘Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen’ music director Ravi Shankar Sharma (stage name Bombay Ravi) also left us and much is still not known as to what happened to his complaint of mental torture by his family and curb on movements in his own house! And indeed, Whitney Houston’s death shocked music lovers all over. The world will “…Always Love You” Whitney and so will miss Dave Brubeck, the pianist and composer who helped make jazz popular again.
Book fans celebrated the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens and if they read and sang Faiz Ahmed Faiz on his centenary in 2011, this year it was time to pay tributes to Saadat Hasan Manto on his 100th birth anniversary. Have you read translations of Manto’s short stories in English, published by Random House? [And did you hear Random House and Penguin merged to form the world's largest publisher, the same year when the Encyclopaedia Britannica discontinued its print edition after 244 years!] Poet novelist Sunil Gangopadhyay also died this year.
Passing away of Vilasrao Deshmukh, who rose from being a village head to the posts of chief minister of Maharashtra and union minister, was majorly covered along with the deaths of Bal Thackeray and former Indian premier I.K.Gujral. But the killing of businessman Ponty Chaddha in his own fiefdom and in broad daylight in Delhi remained the most discussed crime story. Brahmeshwar Singh, chief of banned Ranvir Sena, was also killed by unidentified assailants in Bihar.
The gun culture had its loudest echo in the U.S. where in the morning of Dec.14, just-out-of-teen Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Lanza also shot and killed his mother Nancy Lanza at their home and after firings at the school he shot himself dead.
Earlier on July 20, a mass shooting occurred inside of a Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight screening of 2012’s second-highest grossing movie – The Dark Knight Rises – with a total of 71 people shot and injured. Then, again in a U.S. gurudwara, at Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a gunman killed six people and wounded four others, before being shot fatally. A Nigerian mosque and a church also witnessed killings by gunmen.
How silently the world witnessed all these gory incidents! Perhaps this was the reason why ‘The Artist’ won five Academy Awards and became the first silent film to win since 1927. But global outrage was triggered when 31-year-old Indian woman dentist Savita Halappanavar died in Ireland where doctors refused to terminate her 17-week-long pregnancy citing country’s abortion laws. Then, in its neighbourhood, in London, a hoax call made by two Australian DJs led to the suicide of another Indian, a nurse, Jacintha Saldnha. The city had just celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee—60 years on the British throne.
In 2012, Indian parliament celebrated its 60th anniversary when also the prime accused in 2G case A. Raja, a parliamentarian, got bail and the ruling UPA-II government in India celebrated its three years in office. Another black-sheep Suresh Kalmadi who meddled with the Commonwealth Games also came out of jail on bail.
Jails – in fact – made news the world over when a fire at a prison in Comayagua, Honduras killed 360 inmates. Another 27 people were killed in a prison conflict in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and there was one more prison brawl in Apocada, Mexico, where two rival drug cartels fought to finish 44 lives. There was prison break too – 400 Islamist militants escaped from a Pakistan jail. And in Guatemala, five paramilitaries were sentenced to 7,710 years in jail for their role in a 1982 massacre. On a good note, India’s Surjeet Singh returned home after 30 years in Pakistan jail.
Remember India’s worst terror attack! The lone surviving terrorist of the 26/11 attacks Ajmal Kasab was hanged to death, in a swift-secret operation, exiting the world as stealthily as he had entered Mumbai four years ago, while another 26/11 handler Abu Jundal was arrested by Delhi Police.
If nonsensical folk rhythm ‘Kolavari Di’ made you end 2011 in a drunken state, Psy’s “Gangnam Style” hit 1 billion views on YouTube in 2012, becoming the first video ever to reach the milestone.
Among other things to cheer was astronaut Sunita Williams’ return to earth after 127 days setting a new record. Extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner also made history with his space jump after floating to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere in a balloon-lifted capsule, becoming the first person to break the sound barrier. But then, the Moon man – Neil Armstrong – walked to heaven. Do you remember his feat in these words – That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind!
‘God Particle’- when the word spread early July that scientists had discovered the Higgs Boson!!! [First hypothesized in the 1960s by British physicist Peter Higgs, the so-called god particle is a way of explaining why particles have mass. Without mass, there would be no gravity, and, in turn, no universe.] It was the most profound and most perplexing discovery of the year.
For some, 2012 was the year not just of striking out on to new journeys, but of returning home too. Then, 2012 was the year the Olympics games came to London. [And then disabled athletes, with this Olympics as their model, competed in London only, in the Paralympic games.] But what about those who considered Lance Armstrong as their role model! This legendary professional athlete was stripped of the record seven consecutive Tour de France titles, and went down in history as ‘one of the most brazen dope cheats that sport has ever seen’. The same year cricket’s golden generation of batting finally broke up with the retirements of ‘Wall’ Rahul Dravid and ‘Very Very Special’ Laxman. ‘God’ to many – Sachin Tendulkar – also drew the curtains on his 23-year-long ODI career, but not before becoming the first cricketer to score 100 international centuries and then taking oath as a member of India’s upper house of parliament – the Rajya Sabha. The decision by the International Olympic Committee to suspend India’s National Olympic Committee for flouting guidelines was though a shame-commentary. Elsewhere, Formula One legend Michael Schumacher retired and Vishwanathan Anand won his fifth World Chess Championship while Spain’s football team crushed Italy 4-0 to win UEFA Euro 2012. [In sports tragedy, at least 79 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured after a football match in Port Said, Egypt.]
In India, some States went to polls where the Congress won Uttarakhand, Manipur and Himachal Pradesh, the NDA took Goa, Punjab and Gujarat, and the Samajwadi Party swept Uttar Pradesh, dislodging Mayawati. It was also a year when Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, famous for his silence, decided to get a Twitter handle and Congress’ migraine Narendra Modi crossed one million followers on Twitter. Politics also seemed to destabilize the Indian government when Trinamool Congress broke away from the ruling UPA over fuel price hikes and FDI in multi-brand retail, but then you know India is world’s largest democracy! Here, the main opposition party BJP struggled to save its own party chief Nitin Gadkari who was accused of business irregularities in a year of fumbling marked by the inability of political leaders to govern effectively.
U.S. President Barack Obama was though re-elected – which was the culmination of the hard work of millions of his supporters who kept Americans from sunny California to snowy Colorado and everywhere in between involved throughout the electioneering process. Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang assumed the two most powerful posts in China, while Indian lawmakers chose a new president in Pranab Mukherjee. But Vladimir Putin’s win in Russian presidential election –his third 6-year term -made the former KGB agent’s grip on power look tenuous. Japan elected a new prime minister Shinzo Abe. In France the Socialist Party’s Francois Hollande defeated President Nicolas Sarkozy. In Burma, it was a momentous victory following a decades-long fight for National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the elections. Her party won 43 of the 44 seats it contested, resulting in her appointment as the leader of the opposition. In 2012, as the European politics got overshadowed by the continuing euro crisis, Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram banned government officials from holding conferences at five-star hotels, restricted travel and ordered a freeze on hiring to fill vacant posts.
In Dhaka, Bangladesh, more than 100 people were killed after a ferry collided with an oil tanker. Another 100 died in India’s Assam State when their ferry capsized in Brahmaputra river. But this northeastern Indian State saw displacements at a mass scale leading to a brief ban on bulk SMS & MMS to stop rumours.
Diplomatically speaking, a blast at an Israeli embassy car in Delhi caught international coverage. So did the shootings by Italian marines off Alapuzha coast that killed two Indian fishermen. Also noticed were Chinese Navy’s waves when it launched the nation’s first operational aircraft carrier – the Liaoning – bringing it into the exclusive club of countries capable of projecting airpower from the high seas. The attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, was another highpoint resulting into death of American Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others on the 9/11 anniversary.
Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense against the Palestinian-governed Gaza Strip, killing Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari, in a week that killed 140 Palestinians and five Israelis. As a silver line, the UN General Assembly approved a motion granting Palestine non-member observer state status.
Storms killed people in Madagascar while Hurricane Sandy took away at least 209 lives in the Caribbean, Bahamas, United States and Canada. Typhoon Bopha, known as “Pablo” in the Philippines, killed more than 1000 while 130 Pakistani soldiers were buried in an avalanche near the Siachen Glacier. A plane crash near Islamabad, Pakistan, killed further 127 people while a Nigerian aircraft crashed killed 152 passengers on board and 40 people on the ground. Train fire engulfed 32 in India’s Andhra Pradesh and some more perished in factory fires in Dhaka, Lahore and Sivakasi.
To top it all, it seemed like every day of the year brought reports and images of new atrocities in Syria, news which has, drearily enough, lost much of its ability to shock. Innocent people – countless – also continued to be killed throughout 2012 in bombings and massacres in Iraq, Pakistan, Congo, Yemen and Afghanistan by their very own people.
On the tech side, Mastercard and Visa announced a massive breach in security with over 10 million compromised credit card numbers. Also, 38,000 London Marathon entrants had their home and email contacts published in a data protection breach. Apple’s iPhone celebrated its fifth birthday and launched iphone 5, while the SMS celebrated its birthday, 20 years after an engineer texted “Merry Christmas” on the Vodafone network. Facebook launched its IPO while the Apple-Samsung patent war became the biggest fights of the year, with their products looking very close to each other. 2012 also saw ‘The Great Firewall of China’ as China made its Internet controls even tighter. Liberty was also in peril in India where two girls were arrested over a political comment on Facebook condemning the shutdown in Mumbai following Bal Thackeray’s death. [Who is the first Indian to be arrested for tweet?]
There was electricity blackout in most of southern Manhattan in the U.S. but then India too saw power shortage with an estimated 684 million people stuck terribly. What happened to India’s defence shield during that period – Can anyone throw light on this, without any hurry!
Did you spend too much time reading this? Then there is a warning, as a new report this year said – Sitting too much kills you; Sitting is terrible. And hello, you are reading all these because the world did not end in December 2012. Theek hai!!!
In the New Year 2013: (i) Prepare yourself to get to know whether the packaged foods you are buying contain any genetically-modified ingredient! (ii) Get UID cards to prove your identity! (iii) Visit Kumbh Mela at Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, till February end to meet up to 70 million other souls with the purpose of taking a dip to purify sins! & (iv) And keep protesting, for Abraham Lincoln said: “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”