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The 7 incidents that SHOOK India in 2013

Last updated on: December 30, 2013 12:24 IST

The 7 incidents that SHOOK India in 2013

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Many Indians will be thrilled to see the back of 2013, for it has largely been a rotten year, save for some. This year has been rocked by shockers after shockers -- the devastation in Uttarakhand which killed thousands, the Mumbai gang rape, Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal being accused of rape, godman Asaram and son being arrested for rape, and the Supreme Court verdict on gay sex, -- the list is seemingly endless.

But shocks come in all types. Just as the ones mentioned above had us wringing our hands in despair or made our blood boil, there were other unexpected incidents too. Some of them made us chuckle in disbelief -- like the sadhu’s amusing dream which sent the Archaeological Survey of India scurrying on a gold trail.

Then there was Congress Vice-President Rahul attacking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue of ordinance to protect convicted lawmakers which left us with our jaws hanging. And then some.

And the year is yet to end.

Here is a recollection of some such stories which will not make you forget 2013 in a hurry.

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The Uttarakhand disaster

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In June, the terrible magnitude of nature's fury unfolded as a multi-day cloudburst centered in Uttarakhand, causing devastating floods and landslides, making it the worst natural disaster in India since the Tsunami in 2004.

The gods were angry. Very angry.

But as we learnt later, it was NOT the gods.

After the disaster had claimed more than 5,700 lives, a debate ensued on what really caused it. Several experts came forward and said that the man-made factors compounded the scale of the disaster.

Aggressive promotion and runaway growth of tourism; unchecked, unplanned development of roads, hotels, shops, mines and multi-storeyed housing in ecologically fragile areas; and above all, the planned development of scores of environmentally destructive hydroelectricity dams.

This was an invitation to calamity.

Orissa learnt its lessons from previous cyclones, and it is time for other states to follow suit.

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Image: Dwarka peeth Shankaracharya Swami Shree Swaroopananda Saraswati submerged under the raging floods


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The Mumbai gang rape

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Barely eight months after the December 16, 2012 gang rape, a photo-journalist was gang-raped in Mumbai by five men, including a juvenile in a  deserted mill compound. The horrific incident once again shook Indians to the core, causing outrage against the government's inability to provide even basic security.

It also reminded everybody that nothing had really changed.

It hit Mumbaikars the hardest. The city, which had prided itself about the safety of women; how anyone can hail a cab at any given time and not thing twice about it, was suddenly at a loss of words. And it was replaced by deep fury and empathy at the same time.  It made us all realise that it is an ever-present threat.

That, and also the fact that for most women, everything they do is dictated by that one thing – safety.

To quote my friend and colleague Gauri Ghadi from her column: Mumbai is no longer the Bombay I grew up in. Mumbai no longer makes me feel safe. Mumbai is not far behind Delhi.

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Image: A policeman stands guard near the crime scene in Mumbai
Photographs: Reuters

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Tarun Tejpal sexual assault case

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Tarun Tejpal, former Telehelka boss was, according to a lot of leading columnists, a rare breed of editors who allowed his journalists to function without fear and free of consequences from their adversaries.

AND a great writer to boot. But that does not matter anymore.

All that changed the moment when an inebriated Tejpal sexually assaulted a colleague in a lift after the ThinkFest in Goa. Twice.

The single incident blacked out all other news for the following three days.

After the assault, he calmly laughed it off  as 'consensual'. This was soon followed by words such as 'atonement' and 'penance' and 'lacerate' and finally, 'recuse'. Words which will make us flinch every time someone uses them.

So, why was this a shocker?

Because it was Tarun Tejpal, for god's sake. His fallacy was thinking that he could get away with it because he was confident that he could too.

And because it caused the demise for Tehelka, the organisation known to exorcise corruption with hard-hitting stories. And now that credibility is lost.

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Image: Tarun Tejpal at the Delhi airport on his way to Goa
Photographs: Reuters

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Asaram and son 'rape' case

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This, according to a lot of people I know, or don't know, is not exactly a shocker. Godmen in India come a dime a dozen, and ever day or the other there are incidents of them being involved in sex rackets or corruption or some such.

We look at the spurious advertisements in newspapers, hoardings and everywhere else, scoff at them and wonder HOW COULD any one believe in the hogwash these people churn out.

Because India is THE land of godmen.

There could be a million of them here, but a few stand out.

Starting with a 10-acre ashram, Asaram went on to acquire some 420 major or minor such institutions over a period of 40 or so years across the world. Before his arrest, he was raking in around Rs 400 crore or more annually. In the process, he also snagged some 20 million followers world wide.

Now that is no mean feat.

But there is a much darker side to this self-styled godman.  Before he and his son were arrested  in sexual assault cases, he was already embroiled in land encroachment and a case involving children's deaths.

The man and his son are both cooling their heels in different jails now. There has been, but tepid outpouring of anguish from his ardent followers.

But it remains to be seen for how long. We would learn, one way or the other.

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Image: Self-proclaimed godman Asaram
Photographs: Reuters
Tags: THE , India

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The SC verdict on gay sex

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In a blow to gay rights activists, the Supreme Court today upheld the constitutional validity of the penal provision making gay sex an offence punishable with upto life imprisonment.

A bench of justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya set aside the Delhi High Court's verdict which had in 2009 decriminalised gay sex among consenting adults in private.

The bench, however, put the ball in Parliament's court to take a decision on the controversial issue, saying it is for the legislature to debate and decide on the matter. With the apex court verdict, the operation of penal provision against gay sex has come into force.

The bench had reserved its order in March last year after granting day-to-day hearing of the case from February 15, 2012.


The high court had on July 2, 2009 decriminalised gay sex as provided in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and had ruled that sex between two consenting adults in private would not be an offence. 

The reaction was manyfold. While gay activists were quite obviously ouraged by the decision, there were others such as Union Minister P Chidambaram, who said, “We have gone back to 1860.”

The BJP, after its initial silence, supported the SC verdict.

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Photographs: Reuters

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The Nitish-BJP divorce

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Moving on to the other shockers of the year, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-lef Janata  Dal-United ended its 17-year-old alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party, after the latter named Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.

The JD-U removed 11 saffron ministers  from the state cabinet,  and decided to seek a vote of confidence on a later date.

The move came as a major jolt to the National Democratic Alliance, which was left with only three constituents – the BJP, the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal.

"We cannot compromise with our basic principles. We are not worried about the consequences. As long as the alliance was Bihar-centric, there was no problem. But we had no alternative now. We are not responsible. We were forced to take this decision," the Bihar CM commented.

The party has always made its aversion to Modi explicitly clear on a number of occasions. Kumar had three years cancelled a dinner with senior BJP leaders including L K Advani because of Modi's presence. When asked whether he was referring to Modi, Kumar said  samajne waale samajh gaye hain, na samje who anari hain (those who understand have understood, those who don't are naïve).

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Image: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar


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The Hrithik-Sussanne split

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Actor Hrithik Roshan put an end to all speculation over his marriage by issuing an official statement last year. He stated that he and his wife Sussanne were ending their 13-year marriage.

A statement from the actor confirmed: 


"Sussanne has decided to separate from me and end our 17 year relationship. This is a very trying time for the entire family and I request the media and the people to grant us our privacy at this time."

The two were believed to have been living separately for a couple of months. They have not made any public appearances recently either.

In September, Sussanne's sister Farah Ali Khan had denied all rumours and tweeted: 'It's not true. They are not splitting. There will always be gossip mongers galore to add more masala. Celebrities will always be food for gossip. Don't believe everything you read. Its a pity the media lives off personal lives. Get a life!'

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Image: Actor Hrithik Roshan with estranged wife Sussanne


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