NEWS
23/12/2018 2:13 AM IST | Updated 24/12/2018 12:59 PM IST

From #MeToo To Sabarimala, News Stories That Dominated Headlines in 2018

India saw landmark judgements on Section 377, Aadhaar and Sabarimala and a new wave of the MeToo movement mainly in the media and film industry.

PRAKASH SINGH via Getty Images
This photo taken on March 10, 2018, shows Indian Minister of State for External Affairs M. J. Akbar offering prayers while accompanying French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron to their visit to Rajghat, memorial for Mahatama Gandhi in New Delhi. India's belated #MeToo movement snowballed on October 9 after several female journalists accused Akbar of sexually harassing them. 

India had an eventful 2018. The country witnessed landmark Supreme Court judgements on Section 377, Aadhaar and Sabarimala. A new wave of #MeToo took shape as several industries were rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct.

In political upheavals, Jammu and Kashmir’s assembly was dissolved and President’s rule imposed in the state while Congress wrested back three heartland states from BJP in the recent assembly elections.

It was also the year of environmental disasters as Kerala faced unprecedented rains and floods and India’s eastern coastline was hit by three cyclones.

Here’s a look at the major news events from this year: 

One killed in Bhima-Koregaon violence; Activists arrested

An event to mark the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle in Pune district was marred by violence in which one person died on 1 January. 

On 6 June, Pune police arrested prominent Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, Nagpur University head of English department Shoma Sen, activists Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and lawyer Surendra Gadling in connections with the case.

The police also arrested activists Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha on 28 August after raids across multiple cities.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Rona Wilson arrested in alleged maoist links in Koregaon Bhima violence produced in court, on 7 June 2018 in Pune. 

#MeToo hits newsrooms, Bollywood

Less than a year after Raya Sarkar published a list of sexual harassers in academia, a fresh wave of #MeToo allegations were triggered after actor Tanushree Dutta accused Nana Patekar of sexual harassment on the sets of Horn Ok Please. Scores of women across various industries, including film, television and journalism, spoke about sexual harassment at the workplace.

Union minister MJ Akbar resigned after over 20 women accused of him of sexual misconduct during his time as a newspaper editor.

Bharat bandh: 9 people killed in clashes

Nine people were killed in clashes during a countrywide agitation called by Dalit organisations on 2 April to protest the Supreme Court order on the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act banning automatic arrest and registration of cases. The verdict was widely criticised by Dalits and the Opposition, who said that the dilution of the Act would lead to more discrimination and crimes against the community. Following the clashes, the government filed a review petition in the court. A bill to restore the original law was passed by the Lok Sabha on 6 August.

Assembly elections: Congress wins 3 Hindi-heartland states

Five states went to polls between 12 November and 7 December. Congress came back to power in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. TRS won Telangana by a landslide while the Mizo National Front bounced back to win in Mizoram.

In May, the Congress-JD(U) alliance came to power in Karnataka. 

In March, BJP won the state election in Tripura while the Peoples Democratic Alliance government came to power in Nagaland in partnership with the BJP. A coalition of National People’s Party, United Democratic Party, People’s Democratic Front, Hill State People’s Democratic Party and the BJP formed government in Meghalaya.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Congress party supporters hold a cut-out of party President Rahul Gandhi and celebrate outside the party headquarters in New Delhi, on 11 December 2018.

SC upholds constitutionality of Aadhaar, strikes down some provisions

The Supreme Court on 26 September declared the Centre’s Aadhaar scheme constitutionally valid, while striking down some of its provisions, including its linking with bank accounts, mobile phones and school admissions. In his dissenting judgement, Justice Chandrachud said it was unconstitutional to pass the Aadhaar Act as a money bill, and held that the programme as a whole violated privacy of individuals.

Section 377 partially struck down 

In a huge win for the Indian LGBTQ community, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court on 6 September partially struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised consensual unnatural sex, holding it as being violative of the right to equality. The court, however, said other aspects of Section 377 dealing with unnatural sex with animals and children would remain in force. 

Reuters
An activist of the lGBT community celebrates after the Supreme Court's verdict of decriminalizing gay sex and revocation of the Section 377 law, in Bengaluru, India, on 6 September 2018.

Urjit Patel resigns as RBI chief

RBI Governor Urjit Patel resigned abruptly on 10 December citing “personal reasons”. Patel’s exit came after a month-long tussle over policy with the government that raised concerns about the central bank’s independence. Shaktikanta Das, who had defended demonetisation and GST during his tenure as economic affairs secretary, was appointed Governor the next day.

Political turmoil in Kashmir

Mehbooba Mufti resigned as Jammu and Kashmir chief minister after the BJP pulled out of its alliance with the PDP in June. The BJP had saidit had become impossible to continue in the government in view of the growing radicalism and terrorism in the state. 

In November, Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolved the state Assembly after PDP staked claim to form the government with the backing of the National Conference and the Congress. This was followed by another bid from the People’s Conference. On 19 December midnight, President’s rule was imposed on the state.

Sabarimala: SC allows women of all ages to enter temple

On 28 September, in a 4:1 verdict, the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, calling the ban on women’s entry gender discrimination. Since the verdict, Kerala has witnessed a series of protests. The state government has been locked in a tussle with the BJP and the UDF over the implementation of the order. Several women who attempted to trek to the shrine after the verdict were turned away by protesting devotees.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Women hold decorative umbrellas used for temple processions and chant religious hymns worshipping Lord Ayyappa, the deity of Sabarimala temple, as they arrive for a protest against a recent Supreme Court verdict in New Delhi, on 7 October 2018. 

Over 60 killed in Amritsar train tragedy

Over 60 people were killed after a crowd of Dussehra revellers was run over by a train in Amritsar on 19 October. The crowd had spilled onto the railway tracks while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy.

The Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety had said in his provisional report that “negligence” of people led to the tragedy and gave clean chit to the Railways

Diamond merchant Nirav Modi accused in Rs 11,400 crore PNB scam

On 31 January, the CBI registered an FIR against Nirav Modi, his companies, and diamond jeweller Mehul Choksi accusing them of defrauding PNB of Rs 11,400 crore.

The fraud was reportedly perpetrated using fake Letters of Understanding (LoUs) to companies associated with Nirav Modi by errant PNB employees, which enabled these companies to raise buyers credit from international branches of other Indian lenders. PNB had lodged an FIR with CBI stating that fraudulent LoUs worth Rs 280.7 crore were first issued on 16 January.

Nirav Modi left India this January, a few weeks before the scam came to light.

Assam releases final draft of NRC, over 40 lakh applicants left out

Assam released the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) on 30 July this year. The names of 40.07 lakh applicants were left out of the final draft. They were given an option to file fresh claims. 

The Supreme Court extended the deadline for filing claims and objections to 31 December. 

ASSOCIATED PRESS
People whose names were left out in the NRC draft stand to collect forms to file appeals in Mayong, near Guwahati, on 10 August 2018. 

Protests against Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi

The Tamil Nadu government ordered closure of the Vedanta group’s Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi following violent protests during which 13 people were killed in police firing in May this year. Locals and activists were protesting because they said Sterlite’s copper smelting unit had caused environmental damage to the area.

The National Green Tribunal on 15 December set aside the Tamil Nadu state government’s order, taking the company closer to reopening its facility in Thoothukudi.

4 Senior SC judges hold press conference

The four then senior-most judges of the Supreme Court —  Justices Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur, Kurian Joseph and J Chelameswar — called a press conference, warning that Indian democracy was at stake. 

The unprecedented move was seen as a virtual revolt against then CJI Dipak Misra. The judges raised questions on “selective” case allocation and certain judicial orders.

The India Today Group via Getty Images

Top CBI bosses feud in public

CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana were sent on leave in October on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission following their feud in which the two officers accused each other of corruption. M Nageshwara Rao was appointed as interim director.

Cyclones Gaja, Titli and Phethai wreak havoc

Severe cyclonic storm ‘Gaja’ crossed Tamil Nadu’s coast on 16 November and left behind a trail of destruction, claiming over 60 lives. Over 57,000 houses and 2.7 lakh hectares of land were damaged in the cyclone and its aftermath.

Over 60 people were killed after Cyclone Titli hit the Odisha coast on 11 October and in the subsequent floods.

One person was killed in Cyclone Phethai made landfall in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh on 16 December.

Sivaram V / Reuters
Rescuers evacuate people from a flooded area to a safer place in Aluva in Kerala, India on 18 August 2018. 

Kerala floods kill over 370 people

Unprecedented rains in Kerala triggered large number of landslides and massive floods which left a trail of destruction in the state. Over 370 people died in the deluge and the ensuing floods during which the Kochi airport was shut for two weeks. 

The state, which receives high rainfall every year, received over 250 percent more rain than normal between 8 and 15 August 2018 causing authorities to release water from 35 dangerously full dams. All five shutters of Idukki dam were opened for the first time on 10 August.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan called the flood one of the worst in India’s history, displacing more than half a million people. The overall damage was estimated to be worth more than Rs. 21,000 crore.

Following the floods, authorities feared an outbreak of disease among the scores of people in relief camps. Medicines and disinfectants to ward off disease in the camps.