President Pranab Mukherjee, who will consider the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Bill, 2015 again this year, is the third president to have done so since 2003. The former presidents APJ Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil considered and rejected
various drafts of this bill—Kalam in 2004, and Patil in 2008 and then again in 2009. In January 2016, President Mukherjee sought clarifications on the fourth draft of the bill, which the home ministry had submitted in September 2015, following which the ministry withdrew the bill and once again sent it back to the state government
In the upcoming assembly election in Uttar Pradesh, which begins on 11 February, the state’s four-time chief minister and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati has more at stake than she has had in any poll she has contested before. After a loss in the 2012 assembly elections and an underwhelming performance in the 2014 general elections, her party’s electoral fortunes are at their lowest since the early 2000s, when Mayawati served as chief minister and was seen as a strong contender for the post of prime minister. A defeat in the upcoming election could wreck Mayawati’s career; a victory will forever change India’s politics of the marginalised.
In his January 2017 cover story, Under a Cloud
, Hartosh Singh Bal reported on the failure of the Shiromani Akali Dal regime in curbing the several crises that face Punjab, which heads to polls on 4 February. Bal writes that the Badal government's continual refusal to acknowledge the drug-addiction crisis plaguing the state has led to a strong sense of disillusionment among the voters. In the following excerpt, he recounts the efforts of Jagtar Singh, a resident of Bhikhiwind, to curtail his son's addiction to chitta, sold as a white powder.
On the evening of 31 January 2017
, soon after the end of a rally by the Congress candidate Harminder Singh Jassi at Maur Mandi, near Bhatinda, Punjab, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) placed in an abandoned car and scooter blew up just as a vehicle carrying the politician drove past. Shrapnel hit Jassi’s car, killing his personal assistant and two others. Nearly a dozen others were critically injured, three of whom later succumbed to their injuries. Both the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) were quick to react to the incident, and to blame the Aam Aadmi Party. Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal reportedly said, “We have been asking the Election Commission to take note of AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal mingling with extremists.” This was a sentiment Captain Amarinder Singh of the Congress seemed to share: “The situation here is volatile, with the entry of AAP-sponsored outsiders.”
The 2016 winter session of parliament, which began on 16 November, was expected to be a stormy one. The previous week, the government had announced its decision to demonetise notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. Beginning on the first day, for two weeks, members of opposition parties repeatedly obstructed proceedings of the Lok Sabha with their criticism of the demonetisation. In the midst of the pandemonium, a side act was playing out in the lower house: in a span of two days, the government introduced and passed a bill that amended the Income Tax Act of 1961 and the Finance Act of 2016. On 28 November, the Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 2016, was listed for introduction in a supplementary list to the original list of business in the Lok Sabha for that day. The following day, the bill was taken up amid sloganeering and passed
without a debate.
Kanwar Sandhu, one of Punjab’s most well-known journalists, is also the chairman of the Aam Aadmi Party’s manifesto committee in the state. Yet, in the constituency of Kharar, where he is contesting elections from, Sandhu is an unfamiliar face. Kharar is one of the Punjab’s largest constituencies, with close to 1.75 lakh registered voters—many of them migrants—and 184 villages. Sandhu’s quandary is instructive in understanding the depth of the language divide in India, and the gap that those from the English-speaking, largely urban press must bridge to capture and convey local imagination.
On 27 December 2016, the administration at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, suspended nine students and withdrew their hostel facilities. The administration alleged that the students had disrupted a meeting that the university’s academic council had held the previous day. The suspended students including four students belonging to communities classified as Other Backward Classes (OBC), three belonging to those classified as Scheduled Caste, one to a Scheduled Tribe community, and one Muslim student. Three days after the suspension, the students held a press conference
at the JNU Students Union’s (JNUSU) building and stated that the suspension was a “blatant violation of procedural norms and discriminatory witch-hunting of students belonging to marginalised and oppressed communities.”
Pankaj Mishra is a writer and novelist whose essays on politics and literature have appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Guardian and Granta. He is also the author of several books, including An End to Suffering: The Buddha in The World, published in 2004; From the Ruins of the Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia, published in 2012; and A Great Clamour: Encounters With China and its Neighbours, published in 2013. In his latest book, Age of Anger, Mishra discusses the ongoing rightward shift in global politics, and the rise of nationalism in both India and the West.
In October 2016, news reports began to emerge of protests by citizens’ groups in Bengaluru against a construction project proposed by the government of Karnataka. In September, the Congress-led Karnataka government had approved a proposal to build a seven-kilometre, six-lane steel flyover between Basaveshwara circle and Hebbal, in central and north Bengaluru. This was not the first time the idea for such a project had been floated. In 2010, the BJP-led state government
had suggested a similar flyover, but the plan was later dropped. Then, in 2014, the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) considered the project again
, but several urban development experts opposed its construction
. Through these years, the project had been mired in controversy.
The uprising in support of Jallikattu—the traditional bull-taming sport of Tamil Nadu—that has being ongoing in the state for the past several days, reached a temporary climax on 23 January 2017. Late in the afternoon, the state assembly passed the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, a state-specific amendment to the central Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960. The act replaced an ordinance the state government had passed two days earlier, allowing Jallikattu to be conducted. It exempted Tamil Nadu from the central PCA act, on the grounds that the sporting event held a crucial place in the culture and history of Tamils. Following the passage of the bill, the protest at Marina Beach in Chennai—which had become the epicentre of the agitation—was called off.