Uttar Pradesh 2020: State celebrates Ayodhya, gets flak over Hathras

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December 24, 2020 1:36 PM

These grabbed headlines from Uttar Pradesh during the past year. Yet, the defining image of 2020 could very well be the bhoomi pujan in Ayodhya for a Ram temple, performed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wearing a mask to guard against COVID-19.

ayodhyaThe ceremony in August was watched live on TV by millions, just months after the Supreme Court settled the decades-old land dispute over the site on which the Babri Masjid stood till 1992. (Photo source: ANI)

Streams of jobless migrants heading home from the cities after the coronavirus lockdown, a rape and murder case that shook the nation and a controversial new law to stop what the right wing calls ‘love jihad’.

These grabbed headlines from Uttar Pradesh during the past year. Yet, the defining image of 2020 could very well be the bhoomi pujan in Ayodhya for a Ram temple, performed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wearing a mask to guard against COVID-19.

The ceremony in August was watched live on TV by millions, just months after the Supreme Court settled the decades-old land dispute over the site on which the Babri Masjid stood till 1992. Ayodhya continued to remain in focus after the groundbreaking.

In Lucknow, a special CBI court recorded the final statements of 23 people including BJP stalwarts L K Advani, M M Joshi, Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti who were accused of a conspiracy to demolish the mosque. It acquitted all of them.

As the Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust went about the process of getting work started on the site, another trust unveiled the blueprint of a mosque which will come up in the district’s Dhannipur village, replacing the Babri Masjid.

It will look nothing like the mosque demolished by kar sevaks there will be no minaret and the dome will look unconventional. The complex will house a 200-bed hospital.

The PM returned to Ayodhya later in the year to promise all-round development and watch the banks of Saryu lit up by 6,06,569 earthen lamps, an event which got the pilgrim town into the Guinness

As life returned to a normal of sorts, after the lockdown, a bloody ambush of policemen in Kanpur district shocked the state. Gangster Vikas Dubey and his men mowed down eight policemen with gunfire from the rooftops in Bikru village where the team had gone to arrest him shortly after midnight on July 2. Eight days later, Dubey was shot dead by police when he was allegedly trying to escape from their custody while being brought back to Kanpur after his arrest in Ujjain. Five of his accomplices had already been eliminated in similar circumstances since the ambush.

In September, the alleged gangrape of a 20-year-old Dalit woman in a Hathras village put the Yogi Adityanath government on the back foot.

The woman succumbed to her injuries at a hospital in Delhi. She was cremated near her home at a hurried funeral in the dead of the night, with her family alleging that local authorities forced them to do so.

Across the country, there were angry protests. Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were among those headed towards Hathras, provoking confrontations with police on the way. The Supreme Court too came into the picture. The CBI has recently filed a charge sheet against four men, accusing them of rape and murder.

Around the same time, similar cases of crime against women were also being reported from elsewhere in the state, providing ammunition to opposition parties to target the BJP government. But they could not swing the mood of voters when bye-elections to fill seven UP assembly seats took place in November. In the so-called referendum on the Adityanath government, the ruling BJP retained the six seats it held earlier.

In the aftermath of violence during protests earlier against the citizenship amendment law, the Uttar Pradesh government armed itself with a stringent law to recover compensation from those accused of damaging public and private property during riots. A PIL was filed in the High Court against it. Another new law has created much controversy.

The state government brought the UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 amid a right-wing chorus over ‘love jihad’ – the alleged conversion of Hindu women lured or forced into marriages by Muslim men.

The law stipulates a punishment of up to 10 years for forcible or fraudulent conversions, including those involving a marriage. Since its promulgation in November, there has been a flurry of cases of UP Police rushing in to stop interfaith weddings, allegedly violating it. The Lucknow Police even interfered in an all-Muslim marriage, after getting a wrong tip-off.

By far, the biggest challenge of the year was COVID-19. Nearly six lakh cases have been reported in the state and over 8,000 lives lost so far. But the state government did get praise from the WHO for its COVID management strategy, calling it an example for others to follow.

According to the state government figures, over 35 lakh migrant workers came home to Uttar Pradesh during the coronavirus lockdown ? an influx which stretched its resources. The Adityanath government set up a separate labour commission to find jobs for them.

There were efforts as well to give the economy a boost. The government said 23 MoUs were signed at a DefExpo are expected to bring in an investment of 50,000 crore, generating up to three lakh jobs. The prime minister gave the state the sobriquet of ”Express Pradesh”, recognising the expressway projects under progress.

The Lucknow Municipal Corporation bonds are now listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange, the event marked by Adityanath ringing the bell at the BSE.

The CM created another flutter in Mumbai, when he promoted the Film City planned in Noida, triggering charges that he was trying to snatch business from Bollywood.

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