Beginning with the hijab controversy in January to the deadly killings at the Assam-Meghalaya border in November, this year saw major developments that stoked a storm across states in India.
Here’s a recap of all the contentious issues that jolted the nation in the past year.
On January 1, some Muslim women studying in the government pre-university (PU) college in Karnataka’s Udupi were barred from wearing the hijab on campus. The college administration stated that they were following the state government’s orders. Six students were suspended on January 2 for protesting. On January 26, the Basavaraj Bommai
In February, the Karnataka government issued an order under the Karnataka Education Act, 1983 prescribing a uniform for all students to wear in state-run educational institutions. In March, a three-judge bench of the Karnataka HC upheld the hijab ban in all state educational institutions. They held that the wearing of the Hijab was not an ‘Essential Religious Practice’ and hence, would not receive constitutional protection. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board filed an appeal against the Karnataka HC decision at the Supreme Court.
In October, a Supreme Court bench delivered a split verdict in the hijab ban case. Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia set aside the High Court ruling and quashed the state government’s order in his judgement, while Justice Hemant Gupta dismissed the appeals. The case is now before the Chief Justice of India for his direction.
The centuries-old Gyanvapi Masjid in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh got embroiled in a major controversy in 2022 when Hindu parties sought carbon-dating of a ‘Shivling’ found during a court-mandated videographic survey of the mosque premises close to the “wazookhana”, a small reservoir used by Muslim devotees to perform ritual ablutions before offering Namaz.
On April 8, 2021, a Varanasi court had directed the ASI to conduct a comprehensive survey of Gyanvapi mosque complex. The Hindu parties have also sought a scientific investigation by carbon dating to determine the age, nature and other constituents of the ‘Shivling’ in accordance with the provisions of The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
The mosque is a stone’s throw away from the Kashi Vishwanath temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva, built in 1780 by Ahilyabai Holkar, the Queen of Indore. The case is pending before the Supreme Court, which on November 11, extended its protection of the area, until further orders, where the “Shivling” was allegedly found.
Following two sets of a mega nationwide crackdown by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate (ED), on September 22 and 27, respectively, the Popular Front of India (PFI) was banned by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on September 28 for its alleged links to terror funding.
Stating its reasons for the ban, the MHA said: “The PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts operate openly as socio-economic, educational and political organisation but, they have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalise a particular section of the society working towards undermining the concept of democracy and show sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority and constitutional set up of the country.”
It added that the PFI and its associated organisations indulged in “unlawful activities, which are prejudicial to the integrity, sovereignty and security of the country.” Along with the PFI, eight of its associate organisations were also banned.
However, the ban left out the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the political arm of the PFI. Within hours of the ban, the PFI announced that it was disbanded.
Nupur Sharma-Prophet row
On May 26, now suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Nupur Sharma made deregotary remarks about Prophet Mohammed and his youngest wife Aisha during a debate on a prominent news channel. A clip of the video was shared on social media by AltNews co-founder Mohammad Zubair, condemning the speech. However, Sharma later apologised, and said she was provoked by the mockery of “Shivling” (referring to the Gyanvapi case).
As Zubair’s tweet went viral, protests broke out in several parts of the country in India, as they demanded the Sharma’s arrest. Protests also spilled abroad and sparked a major diplomatic row with as many as 16 Muslim-dominated countries condemning her remarks. Qatar even summoned the Indian ambassador and demanded a public apology from the Indian government.
However, Nupur Sharma was not arrested, although multiple FIRs were registered against her. In August, the Supreme Court transferred all cases filed against her to Delhi police, and granted her liberty to approach the Delhi High Court to quash the FIRs.
Meanwhile, Zubair, whose tweet created all the controversy was arrested by Delhi police in connection to a tweet from 2018 where he shared a screenshot from a 1983 Bollywood
Right after the Nupur Sharma controversy, in June this year, a gruesome killing, which was also recorded by the killers, sent shockwaves across the nation. On June 28, Kanhaiya Lal, a tailor, was killed by cleaver-wielding men at his shop in Udaipur’s Dhan Mandi police station area in Rajasthan over a controversial social media post.
In the video that was recorded by the killers – Riaz Akhtari and Ghouse Mohammad – and later posted online, the killers said that they hacked Lal to death to avenge the alleged insult to Islam and the Prophet.
On December 22, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed a charge sheet against 11 people, including two Pakistani nationals, in the brutal murder case. The killing and circulation of its video were meant to create panic and terror amongst the masses across the country, the NIA said.
In another case from Maharashtra, on June 21, Umesh Kolhe, a pharmacist from Amravati, was murdered after he shared a social media post supporting suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma over her controversial remarks about the Prophet.
The NIA, on November 11, filed a chargesheet before a special court saying that “radicalised Islamists of Tablighi Jamaat” were behind the murder of Kolhe, and called it an act of terror by a gang of radicalised men. All 11 accused were arrested.
Delhi excise policy controversy
It all started on July 8 when Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar submitted a report to Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena Office alleging procedural lapses, and post-tender benefits to licensees. On July 22, Saxena wrote to the MHA recommending a CBI inquiry. Meanwhile, Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) started an investigation into the issue.
On July 30, amid the controversy, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that the AAP government will revert to the old excise policy, which would mean that only government vends will be allowed to operate. A month later, on August 19, CBI raided 21 locations in Delhi, including the residence of Sisodia.
Not just the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate also came into the picture, and is also probing the case that stems from the CBI FIR. The ED has arrested multiple people in connection with the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 case, including Amit Arora, director of Buddy Retail Pvt Limited, Gurgaon, businessman Sameer Mahandru, AAP communication in-charge Vijay Nair, Hyderabad-based businessman Abhishek Boinpally, among others.
In the first major communal flare-up in the national capital since the February 2020 northeast Delhi riots that left 53 people dead and several others injured, Delhi witnessed communal clashes in April that broke out in Northwest Delhi’s Jahangirpuri following a Shobha Yatra organised to mark Hanuman Jayanti on April 16. Stone-pelting was witnessed in the area. Police also alleged that miscreants damaged public property and torched vehicles. Police had said that no casualties were reported, but 10-12 people, including six officers, were injured.
Following the clashes, on April 20, Jahangirpuri saw seven bulldozers roll into the neighbourhood on the orders of the BJP-led North Delhi Municipal Corporation, razing parts of several structures, including the exterior gate of a place of worship. The demolition, which police called an “anti-encroachment drive” had started at around 10 AM and went on for two hours, despite Supreme Court’s directions at 11 AM to maintain status quo.
Meghalaya-Assam border killings
In the early hours of November 22, six persons, including a forest guard, were killed and several others injured in a clash between Assam Police and a mob over an alleged timber-smuggling attempt at the Assam-Meghalaya border in West Karbi Anglong district.
The incident occurred at 3 AM in an area bordering West Karbi Anglong district of Assam and Mukroh village in Meghalaya’s West Jaintia Hills, and came ahead of the second round of talks scheduled for this month-end between the two states to resolve their boundary dispute.
The incident opened the wounds of the longstanding decades-old border dispute between the two states over 12 areas of the 884.9 km long interstate border. Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in 1972 and its challenge of the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971, led to the dispute.