By Pawan Khera and Manish Khanduri
The day was like a slow lit fuse, that smoldered for the most part, but then exploded at the very end in Karnal town.
“I never cease to be surprised,” says Yatri Shamsher Chand as he walked alongside us this morning, “At the spirit of the people who turn out to encourage us. You could say that as Yatris, we have to get up and walk. These people don’t need to come here – and that’s testament to the popularity of the Yatra.”
He’s absolutely right. Arshita, 15, expresses it wonderfully well, and simply, when we came across her holding a placard. “This kind of an event is happening after a long long time,” she said, “An attempt to unite the country and I have come to participate.”
The spirit of participation, the feeling that something remarkable is happening, has characterised the Yatra since the beginning, but as time progresses more and more people are joining the #BharatJodoYatra.
As the morning session, an approximately 12 kilometres walk from Kohand Village to the midday rest at Madhuban, the Yatris were accompanied by C. K. Kumaravel, entrepreneur, OBC representatives of Haryana; and Shivani Gupta, a Juijutsu champion, and members of the Ghumantu community.
In the afternoon, speaking to the press Congress MP emphasised the broad objectives of the Yatra in combating hatred and divisiveness, social and economic inequity, and the rising unemployment that are the hallmarks of the BJP/ RSS regime.
Later in the afternoon Congress MP Rahul Gandhi had an interaction with sportspersons. The event was attended by a number of prominent individuals, title winners, and Arjuna and Shankaracharya award winners in the fields of kabaddi, boxing and wrestling.
The sportspersons uniformly emphasised the positive role of the Congress party in building sports infrastructure and encouraging sports people in the state of Haryana. However they expressed their concern that the investment in infrastructure was declining, even as government jobs for athletes had sharply decreased. Gandhi assured all present of the Congress party’s support.
In the second session of the day the Yatris walked around 9 kilometres from near the DAV Police Public School to their evening break at NDRI Chowk.
All along the route there were groups of people lined up, even as conditions became – just a little – warmer. The Yatris entered the town of Karnal after an approximately 4 kilometre long walk on the highway, at the very appropriately named Namaste chowk.
For the entry into Karnal seemed to spark off what seems to be one long and continuing festival of people, celebrations, performing groups and continuous music. There, for example we met Mankeerat, 5, the youngest student at a local martial arts academy, who had turned out to greet the Yatris. This group was only one of a score or more groups of performers lining the way.
“It seemed there were crowds lining every inch of the way in Karnal town,” exulted Yatri Jyoti Rautela, and she wasn’t wrong. “And what’s more,” she added, “this was clearly an organic crowd,” meaning that they had turned up on their own. And example would be Ashiti , 6, and her family who were there was because, as her parents told us, “She keeps saying over and over again she wants to see Rahul Gandhi and say hello.”
In the evening session, a number of individuals walked alongside Gandhi. These included Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, Dalits Rights activist; and Dr. V. Ponraj, advisor to former President Dr. Kalam. There was also a Kabaddi demonstration that Gandhi attended along the way.
Currently in Haryana, the Bharat Jodo Yatra is a five month, 3500 kilometre long padyatra from Kanyakumari in the South of India to Kashmir up in the North. It is part of the party’s national mass outreach program aimed at highlighting social polarisation, economic inequalities and political centralisation.
Ground research: Aparna Ashwarya (INC Communications Department research team)
1. District name: Karnal
2. The district is popularly known as the “Rice Bowl of the Country.”
3. Karnal is associated with Kalpana Chawla, astronaut of Indian Origin.
4. The district is home to the Sita Mai temple, perhaps the only temple of Goddess Sita in India.
5. The district is mentioned in the great epic of Mahabharata and is said to be founded by Raja Karna.
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