By Pawan Khera and Manish Khanduri
It was #Shaktiwalk, or women’s day, and as is now tradition; the Yatra was led by an all-women contingent from among the Yatris and local state representatives. This also meant that the ‘D ring’, the roped off security area that surrounds Congress MP Rahul Gandhi as he walks in the #BharatJodoYatra, comprised mostly of women.
Says Yatri Ishita Sedha, “I walked 14 kilometres in the same group as Rahul Gandhi and it was a great experience. But during the walk I got to thinking of the true reasons for the Yatra – unemployment and rising prices among other – and it reaffirmed my commitment to the Yatra and the efforts that Rahul ji is making.”
In the morning session – an approximately 14 kilometre stretch from Kala Bakra to Kharal Kalan – Gandhi walked with Jarjum Ete, former chairperson, Arunachal Pradesh Commission for Women; former fighter pilot Flight Lt. Rajiv Tyagi; lawyers and activists Nikita Sonawane and Mrinalini Ravindranath from The Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project (CPA Project), and a women’s group comprising of MGNREGA/ASHA workers.
This day Gandhi also met with Swarn Kaur, the sister of famed Dalit leader Kanshi Ram.
As usual there were enthusiastic crowds all along the route in the morning and evening. We met en route little Sahajpal who came from nearby Dasna village. Why were they there? “Uske swagat ke liye (To welcome him).” In this later stage of the Yatra we didn’t even need to ask who he was.
In the evening session the Yatra was accompanied by historian Irfan Habib, and a group of women activists of Punjab.
So far we have been describing the Yatra from the point of view of the Yatris and the party. But we decided to explore it from an outside perspective – from the point of view of of the police forces who have been deputed to manage the Yatra.
Inspector General Of Police (Law And Order) GS Dhillon is the man who has had charge of all police related activities and support since the Yatra entered Punjab on January 10. And since that day he doubts he’s got more than four or five hours of sleep in any given 24 hour period! “I get up at 3:30AM every day and it’s constant action after that,” he says. It’s certainly a massive management exercise, not the least dealing with the security issues involved. Especially since it concerns Gandhi, and also because “it’s a much bigger security issue in Punjab and later J&K.”
During the Yatra Dhillon has overall authority over a network of 8 SSP (Senior Superintendent of Police) ranked officers, three range DIGs (Deputy Inspector Generals) and two CPs (Commissioners of Police). Meanwhile every district that the Yatra passes through has had “7-10 gazetted officers and 10-15 SHOs”. In total – across all 8 districts of Punjab that the Yatra has passed through an estimated “20-24,000 police forces have been involved.”
Dhillon says he “intended to be on the ground for maybe only the first two days as a drill.” But then he found himself involved to an extent, “managing coordination issues,” that he finds himself walking with the Yatris day after day. “The first day I must have walked upwards of 24 kilometres!” At this point SSP Swarandeep Singh fished out his own mobile app to show us the steps he’s walked today – 19,000!
And what’s the most difficult part of the Yatra for Dhillon? “Managing the D ring” he replies. We agree.
Speaking to a packed crowd at the end of the day, Gandhi spoke of the experiences of the Yatris as the #BharatJodoYatra comes to a close. “It rained, there were storms, heat….but we did not get tired. There’s a reason for this. We were using the power (Shakti) of people, which propelled us forward.”
Currently in Punjab, 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. Districts names: Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur
2. Jalandhar is famous for its industries and is one of the biggest producers of furniture and also the leading producer of sports equipment and leather goods.
3. The Devi Talab temple, located in Jalandhar district is one the oldest and most sacred of Hindu temples.
4. Another important place of pilgrimage in Jalandhar is the Gurudwara Chevvin Padshahi.
5. Jalandhar is the birthplace of Harbhajan Singh, one of India’s eminent cricketers.
6. According to legend, Jalandhar district was the capital of King Lav, son of Lord Ram.
7. Hoshiarpur is mentioned in a number of Sanskritic and Vedic literature as well as in Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata.
8. Hoshiarpur is home to the Kamahi temple, one the oldest Hindu temples, believed to be built by the Pandavas.
9. Hoshiarpur district is the birthplace of Mangu Ram Mugowalia, freedom fighter with the Ghadar Party of India, and Piara Singh Gill, prominent nuclear physicist and first director of India’s Scientific Instruments Organisation.
10. Hoshiarpur finds mention in the works of famous Chinese traveller, Hieun Tsang.
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