During a public meeting in Srinagar on Monday amidst heavy snowfall on conclusion of the 136-day Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY), senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that the aim of his foot march was to save the liberal and secular ethos of the country that he alleged were “facing an assault from the BJP and RSS”.
The public meeting in the bone-chilling cold turned out to be a show of strength as leaders of several Opposition parties joined Rahul at a function orgnised to mark the conclusion of the Bharat Jodi Yatra (BJY).
Besides Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, party’s general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, leaders from Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Communist Party of India (CPI), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) were present at the event.
Leaders from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena were also scheduled to be in Srinagar, but due to snowfall induced disruption of air and road traffic their flights were delayed.
Speaking on the occasion, the former Congress president said, “I have not done this Yatra for myself or for the Congress, but for the people of the country. Our aim is to stand against the ideology that wants to destroy the foundation of this country.”
He alleged that “the RSS and the BJP were targeting the liberal and secular ethos of the country by inciting violence”.
Recalling the moments when he was informed about the assassination of his grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi over phone calls, Rahul said the inciters of violence will never understand that pain. “Those who incite violence – like Modiji, Amit Shahji, the BJP and the RSS – will never understand this pain. Families of Army, CRPF, BSF and Kashmiris understand the pain of losing someone from their family. The family of the CRPF personnel who were killed in Pulwama will understand, Kashmiris will understand that pain when one gets that phone call”.
“The aim of the yatra is to end the phone calls announcing the deaths of loved ones – be it a soldier, a CRPF jawan or any Kashmiri,” he added.
Rahul challenged the BJP top brass to undertake a yatra like his in Jammu and Kashmir, saying they will never do it as they are scared. “I can guarantee you that no BJP leader can walk like this in Jammu and Kashmir. They will not do it, not because they won’t be allowed to but because they are scared,” he said.
The senior Congress shared that he was advised by security agencies against walking the Jammu and Kashmir lap on the road as he might be attacked. “I thought it over and then decided that I will walk in my home and with my people in J&K. Why not give my enemies a chance to change the colour of my white T-shirt to red by tossing grenades at me.”
“But the people of Kashmir did not throw hand grenades at me, but only their hearts full of love,” he added.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who stood by her brother Rahul throughout the yatra, said, “Standing here, I can say that the politics going on in the country is something which can’t benefit the nation.”
She further said, “My brother walked for five months from Kanyakumari. Wherever they went, people came out for them. Why? Because, there still remains a passion in this country-for the county, for this land, for its diversity that resides in the hearts of all Indians.
“When my brother was coming to Kashmir, he sent a message to my mother and me wherein he said he has a unique feeling of going home. He said his family members are waiting for him. They come and hug him with tears in their eyes and their pain and emotions are entering his own heart.”
Speaking on the occasion, Kharge said that the foot march was not for winning elections, but to counter the hate spread by the BJP and RSS. “Rahul Gandhi has proven that he can unite the country from Kanyakumari to Kashmir on issues like unemployment and inflation,” he added.
CPI leader D Raja called on all secular parties of the country to unite. “We all fought together for the independence of the country and liberated the country from the British Raj. All secular parties must come together to liberate the country from BJP Raj,” he said.
Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah asked Rahul Gandhi to undertake another yatra from west to east of the country. “On this last function of the yatra, I congratulate Gandhi on behalf of myself, my father and my party. This yatra has been successful. This yatra has shown that there are people in the country who like the BJP but there are also those who like the other idea which is of brotherhood,” he said.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said the country sees in Rahul a ray of hope.