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Rahul Gandhi Terms it 'Homecoming' as Bharat Jodo Yatra Enters J&K

Anees Zargar |
Rahul will be joined by former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir including Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti in the coming days while senior leaders like M Y Tarigami of CPI (M) and Muzaffar Shah of Awami National Conference will also join the Yatra.

Kathua: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi waves at supporters during the party's 'Bharat Jodo Yatra', in Kathua district, Friday, Jan 20, 2023. (PTI Photo)

Srinagar: Braving winter rains, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi started his Bharat Jodo Yatra from Hatli Morh in the border district of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday with several prominent leaders, including Shiv Sena (UBT's) Sanjay Raut also joining the foot march. The yatra was scheduled to start at 7 am but was delayed by an hour and fifteen minutes apparently due to the inclement weather. 

The ongoing Yatra entered the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday with Rahul Gandhi terming his arrival as a “homecoming” as he raised concerns about the increasing communal hatred and drastic economic decline in the country.

Rahul, who has been marching on foot for the last 125 days from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, addressed his charged-up followers at the Lakhanpur area in Kahthua district in Jammu from where he will begin his Yatra within the region for the next 100 days, covering over 300 km until the summer capital of Srinagar. 

The former Congress president said the march in Jammu and Kashmir had been on his mind and he was looking forward to connecting to his roots.

“While I was coming here I thought about my family living in J&K from where they shifted to Uttar Pradesh. I was going to my ancestral place on foot. When a person goes back to his roots, he learns a lot about his people and the country... I was coming home,” Rahul said as thousands cheered his arrival.

Rahul, however, added that this time, he was not going to say anything but had come to learn and hear from the people of the region.

“I know that people of J&K have suffered a lot and have been hurt. I have come here with my head bowed. You may be of any religion or caste -- poor or rich -- and of whatever age. You are part of this country,” he said.

Rahul was welcomed by dozens of regional political leaders from the state congress party, leaders from Jammu and National Conference president and former J&K chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah. The marching leader is expected to begin the Yatra in Jammu on Friday and will be walking for about 25 km on the first day. Dr Farooq, who is also an MP from Srinagar, joined Bharat Jodo Yatra in Ghaziabad on January 3. Party's Jammu and Kashmir unit president Vikar Rasool Wani and his predecessor G A Mir, accompanied Gandhi during the final leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Youngsters carrying placards and garlands were seen waiting at different places along the Jammu-Pathankot National highway where the yatra is scheduled to pass.

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut said, "I have come to join the Yatra on behalf of my party. The atmosphere in the country is changing fast and I am seeing Gandhi as a leader who is raising his voice on real issues."

"The way people are connecting with this yatra is heartwarming. He is a leader and that is why he is on the roads. The people will choose (who would be their leader)," he added.

The march will reach Kashmir valley through Jawahar Tunnel in Banihal on January 27 and will move in South Kashmir areas including Dooru, Verinag, Kokernag and Anantnag before making the final stop at Srinagar on January 30.

Rahul, in his first address in the union territory, lashed out at the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), accusing the ruling party of failing to address the core issues that the citizens of the country are mired in.

“India is facing three important issues including hatred, unemployment and inflation. But, all we see is the diversion from real issues and raking up of divisions between Hindus and Muslims and Tamils and Marathis,” he said. 

The Congress leader also lashed out at the media for being biased, accusing them of staying away from real issues. “They will only talk about Aishwarya Rai and Akshay Kumar and what Akshay Kumar is wearing,” he said.

Rahul said that will reiterate the message that he has said throughout the country of spreading love in the midst of the “market of hatred”. He also argued that few “billionaires” benefit from the current system and that everybody has been robbed and pick-pocketed referring to BJP leaders and their policies causing an economic slump. 

“Pickpocket comes in a group. They first divert your attention and then pick your pocket. BJP is a team. The media raises Hindu-Muslim issues and spread hatred to divert your mind whilst they pick your pocket,” he said.

Rahul will be joined by other former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir including Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti in the coming days while senior leaders like M Y Tarigami of CPI (M) and Muzaffar Shah of Awami National Conference will also join the Yatra.

“He brings a message of love & peace at a time when the country is being fuelled by hatred. We welcome his efforts to heal these wounds,” People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted ahead of Rahul’s visit. 

The Bharat Jodo Yatra was also marred by controversy after advocate Deepika Rajawat resigned from the party membership as a mark of protest against Choudhary Lal Singh, who is expected to join the march. Singh was accused of expressing support to the perpetrators of the Kathua gang rape and murder victim. 

In his response, Singh, however, refuted the claim and said that his stand in the Rasana case is committed to the demand of bringing the culprits to book and ensuring justice for the family of the victim.

“Even the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir endorsed the stand of DSSP and cast aspersions on the SIT constituted by the then Chief Minister of the State, Mehbooba Mufti,” Singh said in a statement. 

(With inputs from PTI)

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