By Pawan Khera and Manish Khanduri
Imagine, if you will, a raucous, slogan shouting crowd lined thousands deep, in the pitch black of a winter morning. Imagine firecrackers bursting against the night skies. Imagine a continuous cacophony of Bharat Jodo theme music on full blast, the blare of car horns and the continuous staccato beat of drums music. Imagine the Yatris walking through in a shower of flowers. And amongst it all a band playing that popular disco hit, Rasputin.
Now imagine all of that just keeps going on and on and on.
It was an unforgettable aural and visual display as the Bharat Yatris started their journey from Jeenapur, ending 13 kilometres away at Soorwal bypass. We asked party General Secretary, Jairam Ramesh for his opinion on the morning session.
“Outstanding” he said simply.
And we couldn’t have said it better. “Today was simply one of the most memorable days for the Yatra in Rajasthan,” says Yatri Rekha Kashyap, “And significant proportion of those present were women.”
What makes it even more memorable is the company of remarkable individuals who are joining then Yatra. Take the example of Karuna Prasad Mishra, 88. We met him almost two weeks days ago walking alongside with the energy of someone decades older. He was still here, walking every day. Doesn’t his family ask why he’s here for so long? “All of India is my family” was his humbling reply.
Then there’s the poet from Bharatpur, Rajasthan. It’s hard to even the comprehend the passion of 98 year old Rajendra Bhat. “I believe in the Yatra and want to walk with you to Kashmir” he said. We certainly hope so.
In the morning session the Yatris were joined by youth from minority and also Dalit communities. Speaking at a press conference at the end of the walk, party general secretary Jairam Ramesh announced that Congress MP Rahul Gandhi would have a press conference on the 16th as a way to mark the 100th day of the #BharatJodoYatra. Rajasthan PCC President stated that “Children, senior citizens, youth women across all religions were walking with the Yatra. This is the India that was imagined by our freedom fighters.”
In the afternoon Gandhi had an interaction with representatives of various Dalit groups from Rajasthan. There were a number of representations made including the need to establish better education and hosteling facilities for the community, greater legal and financial security to violence and rape victims, and more equitable land ownership rights for women.
The evening session began with the same zest and high spirits that marked the morning. We met young Zeeshan and his father Talib who’d been waiting for the Yatris for “more than an hour.”
The generosity of people that we meet on the roads is something so remarkable it needs to be emphasised. Today for example we met Iqbal Khan, his wife Jasmine and their daughter Asreena. They not only greeted the Yatris but invited a large group to their house and made tea for all. “It was my great fortune that we had you as guests in our house” said Khan.
In the evening the Yatris were accompanied by youth from adivasi communities, and also by a group comprising of chartered accountants and entrepreneurs.
In passing we’d like to mention the amazing tasting guavas of Sawai Madhopur. 65 percent of the guava production of Rajasthan happens in this one district. It was yet another memorable for the Yatris to eat fresh fruit plucked directly from the adjacent farms and sold right there on the highway they were walking on.
We conclude with another individual who joined the Yatris. Dr Gulabo Sapera, Padma Shree awardee and a proponent of the Kalbaliya dance. “I met Rajiv Gandhi in Washington DC, USA, in 1985” she says, “I had just lost my father. And he told me, ‘I can’t replace your father but I can be your brother.’ So I came to meet my brother’s son.”
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)
1. District name: Sawai Madhopur
2. Sawai Madhopur district is home to the world famous Ranthambore Tiger Reserve.
3. The district is the birthplace of the famous painter Mr Ram Gopal Verma.
4. The district has one of the most important places for Hindu Pilgrimage, Ghusmeshwar Mahadev. It is said to be the 12th and last jyotirlingas of Mahadev.
5. The district is famous for its guavas. 65 percent of the guava production in Rajasthan happens here.
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