By Pawan Khera and Manish Khanduri
As the Yatris descended to their night rest location in pitch darkness, they could sense the looming mountains that surrounded them. But it was only the next morning, the start of the 131st day of the Yatra, that the campsite was revealed in all its glory. They were nestled in a flat bowl, fringed by high, mist- touched peaks on all sides.
There was plenty of time to contemplate the natural beauty surrounding them. The Yatra was slated to begin at 8AM, a relaxed beginning for Yatris (used to 6AM starts).
This too was delayed to 8:30AM due to adverse weather conditions, a fact that proved to be a sign for what transpired later.
It started to drizzle a little early. The drizzle soon turned into a persistent rain soon after the Yatris started from Bathi. It was a very short walk – barely 4 kilometres till the end point near Hotel Usman, Ramban.
It was a picturesque walk on a mountain road overlooking a red and swollen river Chenab. The Yatra was led off by the Seva Dal with its usual vim and energy, followed by the main body of Congress cadres, leaders and local crowds. The roads were broken in part, and the Yatris had to occasionally step over large puddles. Still they kept their spirits high and kept going; helped in no small measure by tea breaks, and the encouragement of people such as Amjad Wani who said that “He had been tracking the Yatra for days and was going to take this chance to join the Yatra.”
Even on this short session morning session, the Yatris were joined by Tanuja Chandra, Film Director, and Gazal Dhaliwal, Screenwriter.
However as soon as the Yatra was to start for its next stage, news came that the road ahead had closed due to falling rocks making it unsafe to venture ahead. As a result the second half of the journey was cancelled and the Yatris returned to their place of rest during the previous night.
And even the return wasn’t easy as a number of Yatris were halted en route due to landslides. It was a somewhat strenuous time for those stuck but “We managed to get back safely”, says Yatri Sheba Ramchandran. All’s well that ends well, as the saying goes.
And today just as we were returning back to camp, we came across yet another inspirational example that gave a fantastic end to the difficult day. Kirthika Tharan, Kavita and Nisha have been travelling these last 10 days retracing the entire #BharatJodoYatra route from Kanyakumari, arriving today to bump into us at Ramban town. In case you missed that, Tharan has driven the entire distance in one go. Why did she do it? “First I want to make a statement about women’s empowerment, that women can travel anywhere. Second, I’m not into politics but if there is a time for women to participate to support our democracy – it is now by joining the yatra.” Incredible worlds indeed.
It is fortuitous that 26th January, Republic Day, is also a day off for the Yatra, because the weather and road conditions have worsened. But be that as may, the Yatris will overcome.
Currently in Jammu and Kashmir, 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: Ramban
2. The district of Ramban is located in the Pir Panjal range of Himalayas.
3. River Chenab also known as “Chandrabhaga River” runs along the district.
4. The district has an 11 kilometres railway tunnel known as Pir Panjal Railway Tunnel.
5. Ramban is a famous tourist centre of India. Sanasar Lake is one of the major tourist locations.
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