Indians carry the national flag and participate in an event ahead of Independence Day. Image: AP
As we celebrate 70 years of Indian independence, it behooves us to flash back over the three score and ten years to make witness to the many events that shaped our polity.
So let’s begin the tour of the events that made the extant India, after its Independence on 15th August 1947.
1947 - Tryst with destiny
August 15, 1947, India becomes a free and independent nation whose struggles were and aspirations were encapsulated by Pandit Nehru's acclaimed 'tryst with destiny' speech.
1948 – A patricide rocks the nation
Nathuram Vinayak Godse and Narayan Apte, members of the extremist outfit Hindu Mahasabha, assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.
1950 – A republic at last
On January 26, 1950, the 34th and last Governor-General of India Chakravarti Rajagopalachari read out a proclamation announcing the birth of the Republic of India.
1952 – The first dance of democracy
Jawaharlal Nehru, who had led the interim government since 1947, was elected in the country’s first parliamentary election in 1952.
1959 - Tibetans find a home in India
The 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso escaped to India along with a number of refugees fleeing the Chinese occupation of their country. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru met the Dalai Lama in Mussoorie in 1959 and assured him of protection for his people. The Tibetan spiritual leader would go on to establish the Tibetan Government in Exile at Dharamshala.
1962 - The first military loss
India lost a border war with China. The Indian army suffered the following casualties: 1,383 killed, 1,047 wounded, 1,696 missing, 3,968 jawans captured. The Chinese PLA suffered the following casualties: 722 killed, 1,697 wounded.
1964 – The passing of Nehru
India’s first prime minister was a troubled man after India’s defeat in the 1962 war with China. He died on May 27. Interim Prime Minister Gulzarilal Nanda, who had been sworn in, would soon be replaced by his close political confidant Lal Bahadur Shastri.
1965 – A second victory against Pakistan
India's military losses in the war with China emboldened Pakistan to attack. Though both sides suffered heavy casualties, India was perceived as the victor. Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was hailed as a national hero for the victory that assuaged the memory of the defeat to China.
1971 - A third victory
A third war with Pakistan breaks out over creation of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan. As Pakistan signs the Instrument of Surrender on 16 December it unilaterally and unconditionally cedes to India.
1975 – The year of 'Emergency'
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, then President of India, declared a state of internal emergency upon the advice of then PM Indira Gandhi, thereby granting her full power to rule by decree. Nearly 1,000 political opponents imprisoned and a programme of compulsory birth control introduced.
1979 – A Nobel for a Mother
Sister of Mercy Mother Teresa’s undying kindness and compassion for the downtrodden, the displaced and the diseased was awarded the richly deserved Nobel Peace Prize.
1983 – Kapil's Devils conquer the world
Seen as underdogs going into the tournament with no hopes of clearing the league matches, the Kapil Dev-led Indian cricket team triumphed over all odds, including wagers of 100-1in favour of the Windies in the finals of the World Cup.
1984 - The storming and the assassination
Troops storm Golden Temple - the Sikh community's most holy shrine - to flush out Sikh militants pressing for self-rule. Indira Gandhi assassinated by Sikh bodyguards, following which her son, Rajiv, takes over.
1984 – None shall sleep
Even as the country came to grips with the assassination of Indira Gandhi on October 31, a terrible tragedy struck its people on December 2. A gas leak at Union Carbide pesticides plant in Bhopal. Thousands are killed immediately, many more subsequently die or are left disabled.
1985 – Blown apart in mid-air
Kanishka, Air India’s ill-fated Flight 182, en route to Delhi from Montreal, met with a bloody end mid-air. All 329 on board, including 22 Indians, died. Sikh extremism that was consuming India in the wake of Operation Blue Star is said to be the motivation behind the bombing. Sikh separatists are said to have placed explosives inside the plane, blowing it to smithereens just an hour after takeoff.
1990 - Caste inferno engulfs the nation
Rajiv Goswami’s attempt at self-immolation to protest Prime Minister V P Singh’s implementation of the Mandal Commission’s recommendations sent shock waves through a nation already cleaved by caste. His bravado fanned the flames of protest that had already been lit by Singh’s attempt at raising the reservation quota of students in professional institutions and central universities to 49.5 per cent from 22 per cent.
1991 - Death in the family
The nation is shocked as former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated by a Tamil suicide bomber sympathetic to Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers in southern India during the election campaign.
1991 - An economy liberalised
A new Congress government headed by P V Narasimha Rao was voted in. India was smack dab in the middle of an extraordinary financial crisis. Manmohan Singh, then finance minister under Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao, presented the interim budget of 1991-92, which rearranged the economic architecture of a nation and ushered in what is often referred to as economic liberalisation.
1992 - When the roof falls
December 6 was one of the darkest days since India gained Independence. Workers of the Vishva Hindu Parishad tear down a 16th-century mosque located in Ayodhya, in Northern India. The mosque is believed to have been built over a shrine which exhorted the small piece of land as Ram Janmabhoomi – the birthplace of Lord Rama. This sparks off nationwide communal riots in which some 3,000 people die.
1993 - Mumbai blasts scar India
Retribution for the destruction of the Babri Masjid was not swift, but that was because revenge had to be planned and plotted. Thirteen coordinated explosions ripped apart Mumbai and changed the psyche of the nation. In all, 257 people died and about 700 suffered injuries. Mumbai would never be the same again. Religious differences simmer and wounds of that fateful day have not healed. Since 1993 numerous other explosions have killed hundreds more in a city that has learned grudgingly to live with violence.
1994 - Two queens
Beauty and brains were in the news again as Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai won the Miss Universe and Miss World titles respectively.
1999 - A war on icy heights
Tension in Kashmir leads to brief war with Pakistan-backed forces in the icy heights around Kargil in Indian-held Kashmir.
2000 - A billion of us
India welcomed its billionth citizen in a glare of camera bulbs on Thursday as the country marked the birth of the milestone baby.
2001 - A proximal enemy
October - India fires on Pakistani military posts in the heaviest firing along the dividing line of control in Kashmir for almost a year.
December - Suicide squad attacks parliament in New Delhi, killing several police. The five gunmen die in the assault.
December - India, Pakistan mass troops on common border amid mounting fears of a looming war.
2001 – A nation shaken
On Republic Day, 2001, India awoke to the most catastrophic natural calamity in 50 years. At 8.46 am, Gujarat was hit by an earthquake that lasted two minutes with aftershocks that continued for a month. About 20,000 people were killed, 167,000 injured and 600,000 left homeless. The shockwaves affected an area of 700 kilometers, paralyzing the province.
2002 – Communal violence tears Gujarat apart
Barely stumbling out of its quake aftershocks, inter-religious bloodshed breaks out after 59 Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya are killed in a train fire in Godhra, Gujarat. More than 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, die in subsequent violence. Police and officials blamed the fire on a Muslim mob, but a 2005 government investigation said it was an accident.
2008 – The trigger-finger that got us gold
By winning the gold in the 10 m Air Rifle event at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, he became the first Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympic Games. It was also India's first gold medal since 1980, when the Men's Field Hockey Team won the gold.
2008 - Terror strikes Mumbai
Nearly 200 people were killed and hundreds injured in a series of co-ordinated attacks by gunmen on the main tourist and business area of India's financial capital Mumbai. India blames militants from Pakistan for the attacks and demands that Islamabad act against those responsible.
2009 - Criminals no more
In a landmark move, the Delhi High Court decriminalized homosexuality in India. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was declared as violating the fundamental right to life and liberty, and the right to equality, as guaranteed by the Constitution of India. It marked a day of triumph and celebration for every organization in the country that fought for tolerance and social equality for the LGBT community. For the first time, India participated in the celebration of Queer Pride with events and pride marches planned across the big metros in the country.
2010 - The massacre in Dantewada
In April of 2010, 80 men from the Central Reserve Police Force were brutally ambushed by Maoist rebels near the village of Chintalnar in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. Seventy-five police personnel were killed before reinforcements arrived in what is regarded as one of the most vicious attacks by the Naxals.
2011- Champions again!
After a long wait of 28 years, India created history by becoming the first country to win the world cup on home soil. It was a memorable event not only for the country but also its favourite cricketing son, Sachin Tendulkar, who had seen Indian team’s ups and downs for more than two decades since his debut. The team after the historic win dedicated the trophy to the Master Blaster for his tireless contribution to Indian cricket.
2012 – The crime that shook India
A brutal gangrape of a 23-year-old girl, given the pseudonym Nirbhaya by the media, in a moving bus in Delhi in December, 2012 angered, male friend in a private bus when she and her acquaintance were viciously attacked with rods by a group of six, including the driver of the bus, and the girl was gangraped. The victim died from her injuries thirteen days later.
2013 - ‘Himalayan tsunami’ in ‘god’s own land’
Calamities and pilgrim hotspots seem to be inextricably linked. On 16 June, 2013 Uttarakhand witnessed its greatest tragedy till date which left over 6000 people dead and thousands homeless and without a penny.
2013 - Natural or unnatural
The Supreme Court reverses a 2009 Delhi High Court order decriminalising homosexual acts, saying parliament, not the courts, must resolve the issue.
2014 - Abki Baar Modi Sarkaar
The 2014 Lok Sabha elections was billed by the Congress as a stage to showcase Rahul Gandhi's charisma and prowess but it was Narendra Modi who got the people's vote and became India's 15th prime minister, ending the dominance of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that governed India for most of the 67 years of independence.
2015 - A new hope
The anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party, headed by Arvind Kejriwal, wins a stunning victory in Delhi state elections, marking the BJP's first big setback since it triumphed in the 2014 general election.
2015 - India bids farewell to the 'People's President'
Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, who rose from humble beginnings to become one of India's leading scientists and later a hugely popular president, passed away on July 27 after collapsing during a lecture at the IIM-Shillong, plunging the entire country in mourning.
2016 - Monetised no more
In a surprise announcement, the government withdraws high denomination notes from circulation in November causing chaotic scenes at banks across the country as customers try to exchange old notes.
2017 - The biggest financial reform
After much persuasion and debacle, the GST is finally out. Touted as one among the biggest financial reform to hit independent India after liberalisation, the three-tiered structure has left a huge impact on businesses and citizens alike.