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Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra Suspended on the First day in Kashmir

Anees Zargar |
Gandhi was expected to walk for about 16 km in the area before he was stopped but was forced to travel further in a vehicle due to security reasons.
Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra Suspended on the First day in Kashmir

Banihal: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, currently on the country-wide march Bharat Jodo Yatra, accused the Jammu and Kashmir administration of a “security lapse” as he entered Kashmir valley witnessing a significant turnover of locals on Friday.

Gandhi began his march in the picturesque Banihal town in the morning and later drove through the Banihal tunnel towards the Qazigund on the other side. Still, his march was cut short after a crowd gathered around him, triggering concerns over his safety.

“When we crossed the tunnel, a huge crowd had gathered for my reception. But there was not a single policeman to manage the crowd. My security guards advised me not to go ahead,” Gandhi later said during a presser at Anantnag town.

Gandhi was expected to walk for about 16 km in the area before he was stopped but was forced to travel further in a vehicle due to security reasons. The Congress leader was joined by the former chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, and other senior National Conference (NC) leaders.

The NC leaders participated in the Yatra near Banihal, and later Omar also tweeted about the alleged security lapse criticising the authorities for failing to conduct the Yatra smoothly.

“I am witness to this. The outer ring of the cordon, which was maintained by J&K police, simply vanished within minutes of Gandhi starting to walk. We had just crossed into Kashmir from Jammu and were looking forward to the 11 km walk, but unfortunately, it had to be cancelled,” Abdullah said.

The Jammu and Kashmir police, however, refuted the claims of “security lapse” made by Gandhi and senior Congress leaders, including GA Mir. The police said that full security arrangements were put in place, including 15 companies of paramilitary forces, 10 companies of Jammu and Kashmir police comprising road opening parties and quick reaction teams.

“Only authorised persons, as identified by organisers and the frisked crowd, were allowed inside towards the route of Yatra. Organisers and managers of BJY did not intimate about large gathering from Banihal joining the Yatra, which thronged near the starting point,” the police said in a statement.

The police added that it was not consulted before taking any decision on discontinuation of the Yatra after conducting a 1 km yatra by organisers. “Rest of Yatra continued peacefully. There was no security lapse at all. We will provide foolproof security,” the police said.

Hundreds had gathered in the area, on either side of the landmark Banihal tunnel, to welcome Gandhi, who had been marching since September 7 across the country, beginning his journey from Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari. Many of his followers from states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan were excited to see the turnover of people in the midst of cold and snowfall. Jammu and Kashmir’s capital city is his final destination towards which the Congress leader will be marching in the next few days until January 30.


A resident of far-flung Mangeth village, Dilshada, had travelled about 30 km to reach Banihal to see a glimpse of the rally that she said was the first major political rally in the region.

“I am happy that our local leaders are also participating, and it is a sign that we will be victorious soon against all odds,” she said.

Gul Mohammad, a local from the Chamalwas area of Banihal, said it was important to express support for the Yatra in the wake of what he termed the “ill-conceived” policies of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“There is an increase in inflation, and many people are being victimised due to the politics of hate. Now you see that our lands are being targeted and snatched, so it is important to support it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) leader Mir, who has been part of the preparations for the Yatra, told reporters that they had held several meetings with the administration regarding the smooth conduct of the campaign but expressed shock at their alleged “confusion”.

“We had been discussing the security scenario with them, and I was also part of one such meeting, but I don’t know why they are in confusion. I hope it doesn’t happen tomorrow or the day after tomorrow,” he said.

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