By Pawan Khera and Manish Khanduri
It was 10AM when we caught up with Jagmal Bishnoi, sitting by the side of the road with his companions, Baburam and Kunnaram. He had been waiting there since 4AM. But that’s not all – he had come from Jodhpur some 400 kilometres away. “I wanted to participate in the Yatra” he says, “And this was my chance.”
Like Bishnoi there were many others – thousands upon thousands – who had waited for the #BharatJodoYatra which began at 8AM this morning, a significant departure from the usual 6AM start. A huge crowd had converged at the starting point of Rangouriya, Keshoraipatan, but an equally significant number lay waiting all along the route.
The previous day was a day of rest for the Yatris, time spent by many exploring the beautiful city of Kota. “It’s just such an amazing place,” says Jyoti Rautela, yatri “A lovely city.” We agree – the wonderful parks, the Kishore Sagar lake, the incredible statue of Gandhi, Nehru and Patel are only a few of the manny memorable things Yatris will remember about Kota. The time exploring the city was followed by a brief cake cutting ceremony in the evening celebrating the birthday of former Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
A shout out to the mobile library that the Yatris have started a few weeks ago through the initiative of the Bharat Yatris including Avni Bansalz. It really is a great place to browse through books, meet and congregate!
This morning was a comparatively shorter morning walk, some 10 kilometres to their midday rest at Arnetha Village. It was mostly a straight road cutting across multiple villages and paralleling a train track, with the occasional solitary engine speeding, or a more sedate passenger cars to give the Yatris company. Adding to the colour were a number of of artist groups performing by the side of the road, from drums players to full fledged singing troupes.
The Yatris were also accompanied in the morning walk by a group of Human rights lawyers of Rajasthan, and representatives of Peace Mission Society. The latter group included a Pandit, a Maulana, a Sikh spiritual leader and a Father from a local Church.
The Yatra is a learning process in more ways than one. For example, along the way we met Chanabasappa Jagali, Bharat Yatri from Karnataka. Apart from learning about new cultures and meeting different people, Jagali has also learned Hindi along the way. “Earlier all I knew was ‘acha’, acha’ (good, good),” he says, “Now I’m quite fluent.”
In the afternoon Congress MP Rahul Gandhi had an interaction with students — beneficiaries of Anuprati scheme pursuing coaching for JEE & NEET in Kota, along with the leadership of 3 key institutes.
At a press conference in the afternoon Congress MP Jairam Ramesh spoke on a number of issues including the state assembly election results in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. On the subject of the Bharat Jodo Yatra he stated that “All Congress leaders and karyakartas were working together to make the Bharat Jodo Yatra a success.” Ramesh also announced a break for the Yatra between December 24 to January 2nd.
The evening session saw the same large crowds as in the morning. Along the way we met a group of farmers who had come from Ajmer Zila and who “had been waiting since this morning to participate in the Yatra.” Another group out on the roads was of MNREGA workers Poonam, Lalibai, Reenabai, Kiran and Diksha. Said Poonam “We’re grateful to the Congress for MNREGA but we need to improve it to make it better and easier for workers.”
Earlier in the afternoon Congress MP Rahul Gandhi had an interaction with students in coaching institutes who are beneficiaries of the Rajasthan state government’s Anuprati scheme that provides financial aid to students of disadvantaged groups including SCs, STs, minorities and those from Economically Weaker Section (EWS). It was an engaging session with a wide range of subjects being discussed including traditional and alternate career choices, role of languages in learning, and the education system in India.
Currently in the state of Rajasthan, 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)
Yatra Route – Travel Facts
1. District name: Bundi
2. Bundi has a unique art form known as Mandana art, comprising of intricate patterns on floors and walls.
3. The Bundi- Kota region of known for song and dance performances such as the Tribal Swang or Dol Utsav and the popular Chakri folk dance of the Kanjar tribe.
4. Bundi district has the famous Rani Ji Baodi- Rani Ji is, considered among the finest step wells in Asia.
5. Bundi District is the birthplace of the renowned Classical vocalist Ustad Shamsuddin “Bhurji” Khan. He belonged to the Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana.
6. The district is also the birthplace of the great poet, and scholar of grammar and logic Suryamal Misran.