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Chandrayaan-3, Uttarkashi Tunnel Triumph To Manipur Turmoil: Navigating The Highs And Lows Of 2023 | Year-ender

As the year is drawing to a close, here we have summed up for our readers the biggest national news that made it to the headlines in 2023. 

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(Clockwise)Wrestlers' Protest, Chandrayaan 3, Manipur violence, Sikyara tunnel collapse
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From witnessing the major long-standing ethnic clashes in northeastern Manipur, the top Indian wrestlers' undaunting spirit of fighting for justice, and the much-awaited assembly polls in five states to basking in the glory of writing a new chapter in India's space research history through Chandrayaan 3's unprecedented accomplishment and successfully hosting the coveted G20 Leaders' Summit for the first time, India survived 2023 both through the thick and thin. 

As the year is drawing to a close, here we have summed up the biggest national news that made it to the headlines in 2023. 

March 2023: Rahul Gandhi Disqualified As MP

Back in March this year, what came as a major backlash to the Congress party was the disqualification of senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi as the Member of Parliament (MP) following his conviction in a criminal defamation case filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Purnesh Modi regarding Gandhi’s controversial ‘Modi Surname’ remark.

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Smelling strong political motivation to tarnish Gandhi’s reputation, Congress slammed the Centre and ruling BJP over the judgement. 

However, after fighting a legal battle, Rahul emerged victorious as the Supreme Court stayed the conviction and the Lok Sabha secretariat cleared his return to Parliament via a notification.

“The Supreme Court of India has passed an order on 4.8.2023 in Special Leave to Appeal (Crl) staying the conviction of Rahul Gandhi, Member of the Lok Savga representing the Wayanad Parliamentary constituency of Kerala, which was ordered by the judgement dated 23.03.2023 of the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Surat,” it said.

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“In view of the order, of the Supreme Court of India, the disqualification of Rahul Gandhi notified vide Gazette notification dated 24 March, 2023… has ceased to operate subject to further judicial pronouncements,” it added.

After 137 days since his disqualification on March 24, Rahul Gandhi finally re-entered the Lok Sabha on August 7.

April 2023: Wrestlers Hit The Road Seeking Justice Against Sexual Harassment

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Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Sakshee Malikkh, and Vinesh Phogat staging protest at Jantar Mantar

This year, what brought the country's top wrestlers including Bajrang Punia, Sakshee Malikkh, and Vinesh Phogat to the road was the high-tension protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar in mid-April demanding the immediate apprehension of the then Wrestlers’ Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for alleged sexual harassment of women wrestlers. However, Brij Bhushan has denied the allegation against him. Following a notice by the Supreme Court, Delhi Police filed two FIRs on April 28.

After days of negotiation with the protesting wrestlers, Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Anurag Thakur, announced the formation of an 'oversight committee' to probe allegations against the Wrestling Federation of India, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, and some coaches. 

What further drew the ire of the indignant wrestlers in recent days was the appointment of Sanjay Singh, who shares a close association with Brij Bushan, as the WFI President. What came as a mark of unwavering protest was Sakshee Malikkh’s announcement of her retirement from wrestling. Malikkh said she “would not be competing under the presidency of Brij Bhushan's loyalist.

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“We slept for 40 days on the roads and a lot of people from several parts of the country came to support us. If Brij Bhushan Singh's business partner and a close aide is elected as the president of WFI, I quit wrestling," Sakshee Malikkh said.

Within the next few days, wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat, the two other prominent faces who fought the battle for over 40 days, too joined the cause and announced to refute awards conferred by the Centre. While Punia refused to accept Padma Shri, Phogat announced to return her Khel Ratna and Arjuna awards. Moreover, as a symbol of solidarity, Deaflympics gold medallist Virender Singh Yadav, popularly known as 'Goonga Pahalwan', too decided to return his Padma Shri.

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April 2023: India Beats China In Population

According to the data published by the United Nations Population Dashboard on April 20, India surpassed neighboring China to become the most populous country in the world by being home to a record population of 142.86 crore people, compared to China's 142.57 crore population.

According to the Pew Research Centre, India's population has grown by more than one billion people since 1950, the year the UN began gathering population data. Last year, China's population shrank for the first time since 1960. Beijing ended its strict "one-child policy", imposed in the 1980s amid overpopulation fears, in 2016 and started letting couples have three children in 2021.

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May 2023: Long-Standing Ethnic Clashes In Manipur

Since May 3, the northeastern state of Manipur witnessed the onset and fiery unfolding of a massive ethnic clash involving the two warring communities- Kuki and Meitei- which in all these months have snowballed into a massive cause behind the violence, deaths, and displacements.

It all unfolded from a tribal solidarity march organized by tribal civil society bodies in Churachandpur. The primary impetus behind the violent ethnic clashes appears to be the dominant and politically stronger Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

At this moment, the politically stronger Meiteis, who reportedly constitute 53 percent of the state's population, are allowed to reside in just ten percent of the total land area in Manipur while the rest of the entire state belongs to the tribals, mainly Kukis and Nagas.

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ALSO READ |  Why Kuki-Meitei Conflict In Manipur Is More Than Just An Ethnic Clash

As per official records, the months-long violent conflict in the state has resulted in over 180 casualties while an estimated population of 40,000 have been displaced from their homes.

May 2023: New Parliament Building Inauguration

On May 28, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla unveiled the new Parliament building. The new Parliament Building assembles the whole of India as the edifice is made out of materials procured from different parts of the nation. For example, the sandstone for the building has been brought from Rajasthan's Samthura while the Ashoka Chakras inside both houses have been sourced from Indore.

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In this new platinum-rated green building. building, the lower house (Lok Sabha) houses a seating capacity of 888 members which is almost thrice the old chamber while the new upper house (Rajya Sabha) has 348 seats. The building also includes a Constitutional Hall, a central lounge, and an open courtyard.

PM Modi has installed the historic ‘Sengol’ near the Lok Sabha's speaker's chair. The 'Sengol' is known to be a ceremonial sceptor which is said to have been given to India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to symbolise the transfer of power in August 1947 by the British. So far, it was kept in the Nehru Gallery of the Allahabad Museum before it was installed in the Lok Sabha chamber of the new Parliament.
Made of silver with a coat of gold, Sengol was originally used to mark the handing over of power from one king to another during the Chola dynasty in Tamil Nadu.

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 August 2023: 2023: India Went 'Over The Moon' As Chandrayaan 3 Reached Lunar South Pole

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Historic moment when Chandrayaan 3's lander Vikram touched the lunar surface

On August 23, India tasted unprecedented glory in the realm of space manoeuvers as the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) third lunar mission, Chandrayaan-3, successfully landed on the South Pole of the Moon, which earned India the accolade of being the first country in the world to achieve this feat. The Vikram lander at Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft landed at 06:04 pm.

With this achievement, India entered the global elite space club as the fourth nation in the world to successfully soft land on the moon and the first one to touchdown on the perilous South Pole, an uncharted territory that scientists believe could hold vital reserves of frozen water and precious elements.

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During their 14-day-long operational phase, the Vikram Lander and Pragyan rover executed numerous lunar experiments and exceeded the listed objectives by covering a distance of over 100 meters on the lunar surface. It confirmed the presence of Sulphur (S) in the lunar surface near the south pole. The Vikram lander also conducted groundbreaking measurements of the near-surface lunar plasma environment over the south polar region.

After successfully conducting experiments on the lunar surface during the 14-day-long daytime period, the rover Pragyan and the lander Vikram entered the dormant mode on September 2 and 4 respectively. 

September 2023: India Hosts Multilateral G20 Summit 

Back in September 9-10, India hosted G20 Summit in New Delhi where the leaders and delegates of the member nations and guest nations were welcomed for the two-day multilateral summit. The prestigious event was held at the ‘Bharat Mandappam’ at the ITPO Convention Centre, Pragati Maidan.

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This year the summit adopted the concept of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" or “One Earth One Family One Future" as the core theme of the summit.

From granting the African Union (AU) permanent membership in the G20 to unequivocally establishing the fact that 'today's era must not be of war' through the New Delhi Leaders Summit Declaration, the event managed to achieve a lot of its aims.

Moreover, the New Delhi Declaration of G20 countries urged all member states to uphold the principles of international law including territorial integrity and sovereignty and said the peaceful resolution of conflicts, diplomacy, and dialogue are critical.

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September 2023: India-Canada Diplomatic Feud Over Death Of Khalistani Leader

India-Canada bilateral relations underwent a cold phase this year following the Canadian government's explosive allegation against the Indian government's alleged involvement in orchestrating the assassination of the pro-Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil. Retaliating to Canada's allegation, India on the other hand has rejected the claims and called the allegations "absurd and motivated."

Within a few days, both governments announced tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats followed by India's decision to temporarily suspend all visa services for Canada. Consequently, several Canadian tourists and business travelers including many former Indian citizens bore the brunt of the brewing tension as India announced the suspension of visa services in Canada. However, after a two-month-long pause since September, India resumed electronic visa services for Canadian nationals in November. 

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September 2023: INDIA Bloc Passes Resolution To Fight Unitedly Against BJP

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Opposition party leaders who formed the INDIA bloc

Days after the 26 Opposition parties christened their new alliance I.N.D.I.A (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) challenging the ruling BJP-led NDA ahead of the much awaited 2024 Parliament Elections, the Opposition bloc passed a resolution in its Mumbai meeting on September 1 in which they resolved to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections together as far as possible and immediately initiate seat-sharing arrangements in different states.

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The resolution has raised political heat across the country with expectations of big decisions ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.

"We, the INDIA parties, hereby resolve to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections together as far as possible. Seat-sharing arrangements in different states will be initiated immediately and concluded at the earliest in a collaborative spirit of give-and-take," the resolution passed by the Opposition bloc in the INDIA Mumbai meeting said.

November 2023: Assembly Polls In 5 States; BJP Bags 3, Congress Wins 1

As election results unfolded on December 3, in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana, the BJP secured victories in three key states: Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh while Congress comfortably defeated BRS in Telangana.

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The state assembly elections in the five states, including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Mizoram, took place last month. Termed as semi-finals, these elections are considered crucial for both the Congress and the BJP. The results are anticipated to set the tone for the Lok Sabha elections next year.

November 2023: Uttarkashi Tunnel Collapse

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Rescue operations underway at Uttarkashi's Silkyara Tunnel

After seventeen days of rigorous efforts by experts and rescue personnel, all 41 workers trapped in an under-construction tunnel at Silkyara in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi were rescued in a swift evacuation process 

In the arduous rescue process, the experts and rescue personnel used 'rat-hole' mining technique to reach the trapped workers after several methods failed. It was earlier reported that the manual horizontal drilling had been completed, but the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) clarified this afternoon that the final two metres of drilling was still going on.

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The 41 workers who were rescued from the Uttarkshi tunnel on November 28, after being trapped in a collapsed road structure for 17 days, have been deemed fit to return home, by the doctors at AIIMS-Rishikesh on Thursday.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, who monitored the entire operation for the past 17 days, said the health of all the workers is 'fine'.

December 2023: Parliament Security Breach/MP Suspension row

Chaos erupted in Lok Sabha on December 13 as two individuals infiltrated the chamber, shouting slogans and releasing coloured gas. The breach reportedly coincided with the 22nd anniversary of a deadly terrorist attack on India's parliament in 2001 which resulted in the death of 14 individuals, including five attackers.

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The incident occurred while lawmakers were in session in the Lok Sabha. The video showed a man running around the Lok Sabha as baffled MPs watch and make sense of the situation. Both houses were suspended for a short period before the session resumed. Later, all the accused were apprehended by police.

In connection with the same incident that triggered massive protests among the Opposition MPs, the nation witnessed an unusual drive of suspending the 143 MPs from Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha which is translated into the fact that the ruling BJP currently faces minimal opposition in both Houses of Parliament.

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December 2023: SC Upholds Article 370 Abrogation, Orders EC To Conduct Election

Four years after the central government took away Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and statehood in 2019, bifurcating it into two union territories of J&K and Ladakh, the Supreme Court recently upheld the Centre's decision to abrogate Article 370, stating that it was a temporary provision due to war conditions in the region.

The court ordered the restoration of statehood in Jammu and Kashmir at the earliest, directing the Election Commission of India to ensure elections are held by September 30, 2024.

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Reading out the judgment, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said that the Supreme Court bench has three separate judgments to pronounce on the issue based on three opinions. While one judgement is for himself, Justice Suryakant and Justice BR Gavai, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Sanjeev Khanna have authored two separate concurring opinions for themselves, he said.

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