The year 2022 began with the hope of overcoming Covid, even as several Indian states went under lockdown because of the Omicron wave. While Covid cases abated in the latter part of the year, for the first time in two years, the country saw mask mandates being lifted.
The year started with Hijab protests in Karnataka in January, while tensions flared up over former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma's derogatory remarks over Prophet Mohammed during a TV debate in May.
This year also saw Congress MP Rahul Gandhi embarking on a march from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, and becoming the highest target of false claims in September when the yatra was launched.
As the year comes to an end, here's a look at the top five news events of 2022:
Hijab protests in Karnataka
In January 2022, six students from a government pre-university college in Karnataka's Udupi alleged they were denied entry to the classroom for wearing the hijab. While the students said they were not allowed to enter their classrooms with their hijab on, the college maintained that it was only for inside the classroom and that the hijab violated the uniform policy.
This triggered protests not just in this particular college, but across the state. Counter protests with students wearing saffron scarves began, with them demanding a ban on the hijab in educational institutions. The state government intervened and issued an order saying that students must follow the uniform policies ofrespective institutes, following which several colleges and schools denied entry to muslim girl students who wore hijabs.
On February 11, the Karnataka High court issued an interim ban on saffron scarves and hijabs in educational institutions where a uniform is prescribed. Weeks later, the court ruled that wearing a Hijab was not an essential religious practice in the Islamic faith and upheld the government-imposed ban. The high court added that students could not object to the prescription of a uniform which was a reasonable restriction of one's right to free speech and privacy.
In October, the Supreme Court delivered a split verdict in the case as it couldn't decide on the validity of the Karnataka government's hijab ban.
Read full story here.
Release of convicts in Bilkis Bano case
Eleven convicts serving a life sentence in the Bilkis Bano case were set from the Godhra sub-jail on August 15 after their application for remission of the sentence was accepted by the state government.
The convicts included Radheshyam Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Vohania, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Nitesh Bhatt, Ramesh Chandana. They were all held guilty by a court in 2008 of gang-raping Bilkis Bano in the Gujarat riots in 2002 and killing seven members of her family, who were fleeing the raging violence in their locality.
"I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system, and I was learning slowly to live with my trauma." Bano said after the release of the convicts. Seven members of her family, including her 3-year-old daughter, were killed during the riots when they were fleeing the communal violence in her village in Gujarat.
In November, Bano moved the Supreme Court challenging the premature release of the convicts saying that the en masse premature release of the convicts has shaken the conscience of the society, accusing one of the convicts of playing "fraud" with the top court.
"The worst part was that nobody, not even the present petitioner who was the victim of the crime, had any inkling about any such process of remission/premature release initiated or undertaken or having been concluded in the shape of a decision to release all the convicts of the case prematurely," she said in her plea.
Bano sought a review of the Supreme Court's May 13 order that allowed the Gujarat government to consider appeals for premature release. However, her plea was rejected by the Supreme Court on December 13.
Nupur Sharma's remarks on Prophet Mohammed spark diplomatic row
Former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma's remarks against Prophet Mohammed during a television debate in May triggered a spate of violence across the country. While Muslims protested her remarks, Muslim countries like Qatar, Iran and Kuwait condemned her remarks and summoned Indian diplomats.
Indian Embassy spokespersons in Qatar and Kuwait tried diffusing the tension. They said that the derogatory remarks did not reflect the views of the Indian government and were views of the "fringe elements."
In June, a tailor in Rajasthan's Udaipur was hacked to death by two men allegedly for making a social media post supporting Sharma's controversial remarks against the prophet. The accused were identified as Gaus Mohammad and Mohd Riyaz Ansari while the victim was Kanhaiyalal. The accused were arrested based on two videos they shared on their Facebook account.
Supreme Court slammed Sharma for her comments and said that she "set the country on fire". "We saw the debate on TV," Supreme Court judge Surya Kant said "The way she has ignited emotions across the country. This lady is single-handedly responsible for what is happening in the country," he added referring to the violent protests that broke in the aftermath.
Covid-19's brief return
After a devastating second wave of Covid-19 in India in 2021, the virus made a comeback in January. The highest single-day cases were registered on January 19 with 317,000 cases. Despite the high number of cases, the number of hospitalizations and deaths wasn't as high as it was in the previous wave. The third wave was driven by the Omicron variant of coronavirus, which is highly infectious, yet not as lethal as the Delta variant. By this time, more people in the country had been vaccinated, reducing cases of severe illness.
Night curfews and weekend lockdowns were imposed in several parts of the country to arrest the spread of the virus. However, as the cases started dropping from February, the curbs were eased and mandates like masks and social distancing in public places were relaxed. Office-goers who had been working fro home since March 2020 returned to offices and educational institutes also started classes offline after two long years.
Protests Over Agneepath Scheme
The Center in June announced the Agnipath Scheme for recruitment to the three defence services — Indian Army, Navy, and Air Force. Under the Agnipath scheme, the new recruits, called the Agniveers, would be recruited on a contract of four years and 45,000 to 50,000 personnel would be recruited annually. However, only 25% of them would be retained after four years.
The scheme was announced for personnel below officer ranks only. However, young aspirants were upset over the rules. Violent protests broke out in parts of Rajasthan, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh. Train coaches were burnt, rail and road traffic was interrupted and public property vandalised, as protesters hit the streets against the new scheme.
Those between the ages of 17.5 years and 23 years will be eligible to apply to the three services through the system, while the earlier age limit was 21.
Bharat Jodo Yatra
In September, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi started "Bharat Jodo Yatra" from Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of the country. The yatra will end in Kashmir in 2023 around the time of Republic Day. Walking on foot, Gandhi will cover a distance of 3,570 kilometers over 150 days.
Gandhi has been marching through several states, flanked by party leaders as he meets people on the way. Pictures and videos of the yatra have been shared widely on social media as activists and celebrities also joined him to show support. The yatra has crossed states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadhu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Kerala, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana.
Apart from Congress leaders, activists and celebrities have joined Gandhi on the yatra so far. These include former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, Mahatma Gandhi's grandson Tushar Gandhi, activist Medha Patkar, actor Swara Bhaskar, Rashmi Desai and Poonam Kaur.
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