2018 and controversies have gone hand-in-hand. From politics to sports to Bollywood, the year 2018 was plunged into several controversies which had its share of moments and took India by storm. While films like Padmaavat and PadMan evoked wide condemnations over their story-lines, Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu received huge backlash for his Islamabad trip twice in 2018. In mid-year, Indian media, entertainment industries and cricket were hard hit by the unprecedented #MeToo movement, which has revealed several dark and untold secrets of sexual harassment cases across the country. As the year 2018 comes to an end, News Nation takes a brief look at those events.
1. Padmaavat: Based on the 16th-century Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi's epic poem, the Ranveer Singh-Deepika Padukone-Shahid Kapoor starrer had been mired in controversy since the day of its inception. The trouble which began in 2017, spilled over to 2018 too. Several Rajput groups like Karni Sena accused the filmmakers of distorting historical facts, maligning the image of Queen Padmavati. A rumoured dream sequence between Rani Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji sparked several debates among the Rajput Community. Following the massive protests all over the country, four states, including Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, banned the film from release even after it received a U/A certificate from the CBFC. The filmmakers further moved the Supreme Court against the states' decision, which ruled that the ban on the film was illegal and it was the states' responsibility to maintain law and order upon the film's release. However, after those bumps in the road, Sanjay Leela Banshali's much-awaited magnum opus hit the theatres on January 25 and became one of the biggest blockbusters of the year.
2. Navjot Singh Sidhu: The year turned out to be a tumultuous one for Congress leader and Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. The cricketer-turned-politician sparked off a huge row after he claimed that Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa told promised him grant access to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, in 2019. Trouble found the Punjab minister after the Imran Khan government said that there were no official talks between India and Pakistan on Sikh pilgrims’ direct access to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, along with the India-Pakistan border. Sidhu's Islamabad trip to take part in Imran Khan's oath-taking ceremony also received a widespread backlash from across the party lines, with the BJP accusing him of acting like a "Pakistani agent".
3. Jinnah portrait row: In May, what could be a big reason of embarrassment for the BJP, party MP Savitri Bai Phule said "All the mahapurush who had contributed to the freedom struggle, irrespective of their caste or community, need to be respected…. He (Jinnah) was, is, and will always remain a great person". Phule's statement came on the heels of Jinnah portrait controversy in Aligarh Muslim University. The Jinnah portrait row refers to the nationwide protest by a group of Hindutva activists, demanding an immediate withdrawal of former Pakistan prime minister Mohammad Ali Jinnah's portrait from the Aligarh Muslim University premises. Their demands include a probe into the alleged "anti-national activities" in the varsity.
4. PadMan's plagiarism row: After opening on a good note in theatres across India, the Akshay Kumar starrer was caught in a plagiarism row. Taking to Twitter, Ripu Daman Jaiswal, a Mumbai-based writer alleged that he had written the script for PadMan even before Twinkle Khanna announced the film. Ripu said that he had sent the synopsis of the film to Dharma Productions’ creative head and the makers have used some of the scenes from his script. PadMan is based on Twinkle Khanna’s short story in her book The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, which revolved around the life of social activist Arunachalam Muruganantham, who introduced low-cost sanitary pads.
5. #MeToo movement: After receiving an overwhelming response in abroad, the #MeToo wave broke records in India, especially when the names of the people from different industry started tumbling out. Several women who suffered sexual harassment at the workplace narrated their ordial on Twitter, naming and shaming the men who had exploited them. The much-hyped #MeToo campaign accused several well-known figures from all walks of life, including Bollywood actor Alok Nath Nana Patekar, journalist-turned-politician MJ Akbar, singer Anu Malik, cricketer Lasith Malinga and several others. #MeToo gained momentum in India, following Tanushree Dutta's shocking revelation on Patekar’s alleged indecent behaviour with her in 2008 on the sets of film Horn Ok Pleassss.
6. Statue of Unity: The tallest statue in the world had its fair share of controversies in the real world too, but in the Twitterverse, it became the centre for high-voltage drama twice. The first was on the day it was inaugurated when images of a signboard at the base of the statue went viral. The board bore the name ‘Statue of Unity’ in 10 different languages, but most of these were either transliterations or the English name or pretty meaningless gibberish. Officials later claimed that the signboard with wrong translations was ‘fake’. The second occasion was when Congress social media head Divya Spandana tried to troll Prime Minister Modi by putting his picture next to the statue and comparing him to a “bird’s dropping”. Several people criticised Spandana for this remark, but she refused to delete the tweet.
7. Ram Mandir: With the clamour for a Ram Mandir on the rise, the Shiv Sena did not want to be left behind. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, on November 23 said, “We took just 17 minutes to demolish disputed Babri Masjid; how much time will the NDA government take to enact a law. From Rashtrapati Bhavan to UP there is BJP's government. In Rajya Sabha, there are a lot of members who will stand with (the issue) of Ram temple. If anyone opposes it, it will be difficult for them to move about in the country.”
8. Rajiv Gandhi's Bharat Ratna: Earlier in December, several AAP leaders in Delhi Assembly proposed an amendment demanding the withdrawal of the Bharat Ratna award given to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, accusing him of ‘justifying’ the killing of innocent Sikhs in the 1984 riots. The 1984 anti-Sikh riots refer to the violence against Sikhs following the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi in October 1984. On November 19, AAP leader and lawyer HS Phoolka along with BJP secretary released the video of the speech delivered by Rajiv Gandhi on Indira Gandhi’s birth anniversary at Boat Club. In an apparent reference to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots the former prime minister said that "when a big tree falls, the earth shakes". Addressing a press conference Phoolka said, "A prime minister who justifies the killing of innocent citizens, definitely does not deserve Bharat Ratna. We, therefore, call upon the government to withdraw the Bharat Ratna conferred upon Rajiv Gandhi".
9. Shashi Tharoor's 'scorpion sitting on a Shivling' remark on PM Modi: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who has developed a status of being controversy's favourite child over the years, was at the centre of all talking points yet again in October. Trouble found the vociferous Lok Sabha MP after he linked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a 'scorpion sitting on a Shivling'. The Congress leader was addressing a gathering at the Bengaluru Literary Festival and claimed that an unnamed RSS leader had in 2012 compared Modi to "a scorpion sitting on a Shivling". "There is an extraordinarily striking metaphor expressed by an unnamed RSS source to journalist Vinod Jose of 'The Caravan', who expressed their frustration with their inability to curb Modi," Tharoor said. The remark by the RSS source depicted the "complex" dynamics that exist between the "Hindutva movement and the Moditva expression of it", he added.
10. Mohammed Shami-Hasin Jahan marital woes: Team India pacer Mohammed Shami made headlines in 2018 for all the wrong reasons. The cricketer found himself embroiled in controversies after his estranged wife Hasin Jahan came up with a series of allegations – ranging from infidelity, corruption and domestic violence – and filed a police complaint in Kolkata under various sections of the the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The BCCI, in the meantime, instructed its Anti-Corruption Unit to look into the matter and put his central contract on hold. The pacer had to sweat it out, to hold his ground against Jahan, claim the legal and higher moral ground, and join the team on the tour of England. The year 2018 seems to be nightmare for Shami which he will not forget in a hurry.
11. Unprecedented press conference by four senior Supreme Court judges: In an unprecedented and "extraordinary" incident, four senior judges of the Supreme Court in January mounted a virtual revolt against then chief justice of India Dipak Misra, listing a litany of problems that they said are afflicting the country’s highest court and warned they could destroy Indian democracy. The unusual move at a joint news conference by the four judges including Justice J Chelameswar, the second senior judge after the Chief Justice of India, left the judiciary and observers stunned, leaving uncertain how this open dissension in the hallowed institution would be resolved.