Amidst illogical controversies and hate campaigns that became a part of 2020, we saw some real heroes emerge. Heroes who countered non-sense with facts and hate with the right kind of love, support, and some good, old-fashioned, original swag! 

So, here’s a look at some of the real ‘gangstas’ of 2020: 

1. Diljit Dosanjh

From standing in support of the farmers to donating ₹1 crore to help them with warm clothes, Diljit has emerged as a true hero. But, it’s his savage comebacks and the way he called out Kangana Ranaut for spreading lies about the protestors, that had everyone saying, dil jitt liya, Diljit! 

2. Greta Thunberg

While Greta Thunberg’s impassioned stand to save the climate has won her admirers across the globe, it has also won her a fair share of criticism. And Greta had the perfect response for one of her strongest critics, Donald Trump, when she used a condescending tweet he’d directed at her in the past to comment on his ‘breakdown’ over the result of US elections. Recycling done right!

3. Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris became an inspiration for young girls across the globe when she became the first female VP-elect of the USA. However, more than her ability to rock sports shoes with suits, the moment that completely resonated with women everywhere was when she shut down Mike Pence for interrupting her during the vice-presidential debate. Hail the queen! 

4. Prashant Bhushan

Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan was fined Re. 1 for his tweets, which were considered to be a contempt against the court but which he refused to delete or apologize for. He issued a statement, reiterating his original opinion, and adding that expressing his viewpoint was his democratic right, and open criticism was necessary for any democracy. 

5. Ravish Kumar

From bringing to light the tragedy of India’s migrant crisis amidst the Covid-19 lockdown to always asking the right questions to the government, Ravish has single-handedly upheld the standards of journalism in India. However, it was the way he roasted the media’s coverage of Rafale Jets that had everyone hailing him as the king of sarcasm. 

6. Priya Ramani, Samar Halarnkar & Niloufer Venkatraman (Founders: Instagram Account India Love Project)

India Love Project, on Instagram, started after a Tanishq ad showcasing an inter-faith marriage had to be pulled down because it offended a large section of society. The account shares real, heartwarming tales of love that crossed arbitrary barriers of caste, religion, etc., thereby proving the value of letting love be. 

7. Faye D’Souza

While Faye’s peers seem to perform comedy in the name of news anchoring, she has been breaking important, well-researched stories and conducting debates that actually offer diverse viewpoints on a topic. And, during one such debate, Faye expertly shut down casual sexism when she called out the Power & Environment Minister, Nilesh Cabral, for referring to her by ‘ my dear’ and not her name or title. 

8. Sonu Sood

During the pandemic, Sonu Sood has truly emerged as the hero we needed but didn’t deserve. However, it’s not just his selfless actions, but also his clever wit and genuine warmth that made him a star we’re truly thankful for in 2020. Especially when he gave it off, in style, to those who accused him of doing a PR stunt in the name of charity. 

9. Rajiv Bajaj 

As certain news channels continue to turn into mediums of hate-mongering, Rajiv Bajaj, the managing director of Bajaj Auto, announced that he would pull out advertisements from ‘toxic media channels’, because he didn’t want to raise his children in an India built on hate. Following his decision, Parle and Amul also announced their decision to not fund hate. 

10. Meghan Markle

This year, Meghan Markle penned an emotionally rousing, powerful open letter in The New York Times, about the pain of her miscarriage, bringing to light the illogical taboo that exists around miscarriages. Despite the fact that many women, due to various, often unforeseen circumstances, experience a miscarriage, their (and their partners’, if any) sufferings and loss are often not given the requisite attention. And her letter offered a starting point for a much-needed conversation 


11. Ranjitsinh Dilsale 

A primary school teacher from a small village in Solapur, Ranjitsinh Dilsale was named the winner of the prestigious, annual Global Teacher award by UNESCO and Varkey Foundation for his work towards providing education for young girls in schools in remote areas. And Dilsale, who won a cash prize of $1 million, shared half the money with the other 9 finalists, because he believed that change could only be brought if everyone worked together. 


12. Paula Depana

As the world came together to grieve over the loss of legendary footballer Diego Maradona, Spanish footballer Paul Depana refused to pay tribute to him because of allegations of domestic abuse against him. Even though she received death threats for her stand, she stood by her decision, stating that if the abused women didn’t receive a minute’s silence, then Maradona shouldn’t either. 

13. Elliot Page

Elliot Page publically came out as trans, through a post on social media. The Juno actor talked about how he was inspired by the trans community to pursue his ‘authentic self’, while also addressing the widespread discrimination towards trans people, and how he would stand up to help the community. 

14. Naomi Osaka

The death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others, sparked nationwide outrage in the USA with people coming out on the streets to protest against the continued racism. Three-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka offered her support for the movement by publically wearing masks with names of the victims of racism at the US Open. 

15. Mahinder Kaur

Mahinder Kaur is one of the many female farmers who participated in the protests against new farm laws in Delhi. She is also the same elderly farmer who was misidentified by Kangana Ranaut in her tweet as the ‘Shaheen Bagh dadi‘ available on hire for ₹100/day. However, when Mahinder Kaur ji got to know of Kangana’s remarks, she did not brush it off but rather challenged Kangana to do even half the work that farmers like her did, on a daily basis. Because perpetuating lies in the name of giving opinions is no longer acceptable. 

16. Navdeep Singh

The photo of Navdeep Sigh, the son of a farmer and one of the protestors, jumping to turn off the water cannons (being used by the police to dissuade the protesting farmers) went viral on social media, with Singh being hailed as the hero of the protest. Later, he was charged with attempt to murder, even though he maintained that he was innocent. 

17. Nusrat Jahan

TMC MP Nusrat Jahan was one of the few politicians to take a stand against the idea of legalizing ‘love jihad’. During a press conference, Nusrat addressed the topic of love jihad, clearly stating that who someone loves is, and should continue to be, a personal choice. 

18. Officer Seema Dhaka

Delhi constable Seema Dhaka became a personal hero for as many as 76 young kids, who she helped trace after they went missing. The first personnel from Delhi police to be promoted out-of-turn, Seema took only three months to trace over 50 missing kids, despite the challenges posed by Covid. 

19. Tanushree Pandey

After a young woman in Hathras became the victim of caste-based violence, the police and administration tried to shush the case, going so far as to cremate the victim’s body in the absence of her family, in the middle of the night. It was because of the fearless efforts of reporter Tanushree Pandey, that the issue came to light and led to widespread outrage.  

20. Anushka Sharma

From supporting original content and new talent to sharing inspiring posts during her pregnancy, Anushka definitely owned the year 2020. However, it was her response to Sunil Gavaskar’s sexist comment about Virat’s performance, that had everyone hail her as the real star. Because in 2020, silence isn’t golden. 

21. Kanta Maruti Kalan

50-year-old Kanta Maruti Kalan became a symbol of humanity and compassion when she stood beside an open manhole for five hours, during the harsh Mumbai rains, simply to guide people away from the manhole. 

22. Alex Ohanion

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and nationwide protests against racism in the USA, Reddit co-founder Alex Ohanian emerged as a real ally for the Black community. He resigned from his position at the board of the company and urged Reddit to hire a Black candidate instead. He also talked about how he would work to continue to serve the Black community in the future as well.

23. Chris Evans

After an accidental nude leak, Chris Evans, who is already one of the most loved Hollywood stars, decided to take advantage of the extra fame and attention he received by reminding people to vote in the US elections. Not only was it the most amazing response, but it was also a reminder of Captain America’s never-ending loyalty towards his nation. 

24. Vikas Khanna

During the pandemic, Vikas Khanna’s efforts for those in need were commendable and inspiring. But, it was his response to a BBC anchor’s condescending question about India, that made him a bonafide star. While the BBC anchor appeared to be suffering from a colonial hangover, Khanna’s pride in his nation was evident in his simple response.

25. Jacinda Ardern

Whether it was taking to work-from-home like the rest of us mere mortals, or publically demoting a minister who flouted COVID-19 guidelines, Ardern truly showed the way for how a nation is led under a pandemic. And her landslide victory at the 2020 general elections was easily the cherry on the cake. 


26. Kunal Kamra

Arguably PM Modi’s biggest ‘fan’, stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra got into quite a pickle when he was banned from flying by 4 airlines after he chose to heckle Arnab Goswami in the name of questioning, much like the way Goswami and his team treats people they interview. As ‘luck’ would have it, Kamra’s flying ban proved inconsequential in light of 2020! 

28. Street Artist Tyler

Street artist Tyler was the ‘masked’ hero of 2020, as he went around painting ‘walk of shame’ circles across Mumbai, naming people who chose to muzzle the voice of dissent and freedom in India. The idea was to call out the ‘most shameless’ people from all walks of life, but his street art amassed such a huge fan following, that it led to BMC covering up his art. However, that has not stopped him from using art to make a point. 

29. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

AOC has always been, to put it quite simply, a badass leader. And she proved that again in 2020, when she called out a fellow minister for referring to her as a ‘fucking bitch’ and refusing to apologize for it. While Mr. Yoho, the minister in question, defended his words as ‘his passion’, AOC reminded once and for all, that hate speech and freedom of speech is not the same thing. 

30. Manish Sisodia

During his tour of the city, Home Minister Amit Shah remarked that AAP did not deliver on its promise of putting CCTV cameras in the city, going so far as to say that he couldn’t spot even one CCTV camera in the city. Dy CM Manish Sisodia, however, had the perfect response – he simply shared the footage of Amit Shah’s campaign, caught by the CCTVs. Ah, there is no better defense than work well done. 

As they say, “everyone’s a gangsta’, till the real gangsta walks in!”