30 January 2023

Bharat Jodo Diary : 29 January 2023


By Pawan Khera and Manish Khanduri

At the end the Congress party did what it had always promised – we raised the national flag in Srinagar.

Congress MP Jairam Ramesh tweets:

“Today noon Kanyakumari to Kashmir #BharatJodoYatra completed at Lal Chowk after covering 4080kms, 12 states & 2 UTs, walking for 116 days. @RahulGandhi addressed 12 public meetings,100+ corner meetings,13 Ji’s PCs, alongwith 275+ planned walking interactions & 100+ sitting interactions.”

It was the same as any other day, yet it was completely different. It was the last walking day of the #BharatJodoYatra.

And we’re off. The Seva Dal Jhanda Tukri (Flag Bearers) lead the way.
The marching band gets ready to move. This group has accompanied the Yatris from the beginning, matching us step for step

We should also state that there are two stories here. One is the tale of this day. And the other is the unprecedented love that the people of Jammu And Kashmir have given the Yatra.

A large and excited crowd awaits the Yatris

The morning began as usual, with the Yatris in their containers preparing for the day ahead. This day the Yatris had the luxury of a 10 AM start. Compare that to earlier days of the Yatra, when by 6 AM they would already be walking; and by 10 AM the morning session would be done.

Here we have the self declared ‘becharas’ – MPs Jairam Ramesh and Digvijay Singh – holding fort

The Yatris knew it was the last time they would the road together, so ‘remembrance photographs’ were the order of the day. They had begun to congregate in the central camp space many of them in their best shining whites. There were plenty of hugs and group pictures to go around. But soon, Seva Dal chief Lalji Desai was laying out the ground rules for the day, including order of march and what to expect at the end of the walk.

Seva Dal chief Lalji Desai (with megaphone) laying out the ground rules for his team on this day
Group photos and hugs were the order of the day
The day began with yatris taking ‘remembrance pictures’, knowing it was their last walking day.

Here’s one group picture of the occupants of Container # 34. They, and others like them, have shared their container space for the best part of five months.

And what a reception it was as the Yatris stepped outside the camp towards their starting point. While the Yatra had a later than expected start, the crowds building up all along the route more than made up for the delay.

Congress MP Jairam Ramesh waves at the crowds lining the roadside

And even though the walk was a short one, all who participated – whether as Yatris or as part of the crowd – knew it had a tremendous impact. For example listen to Abdul Mannan, a resident. “I don’t recall,” he said, “any other political event having such a massive, across the board impact as this Yatra.”

The cheering crowds all along the route and especially at the later stage of the walk were testament to this comment. Yatri Chandy Oomen – who incidentally has walked barefoot during the Yatra – spoke of the “amazing enthusiasm of the crowds. They were hugely appreciative of the efforts that the Yatris has made in walking the length of the country.”

You didn’t have to listen to Chandy to understand that. You just had to watch the lady who stood by the side with a platter of sweets for the Yatris. Or the elderly gentleman offering free kahwa to anyone passing by. Such simple but powerful gestures of affection will live long in the collective memory.

This lady was offering a platter of sweets for the Yatris passing by, a simple yet deeply touching gesture

The walk was followed by a short but moving ceremony, as we raised the national flag at Lal Chowk. “To listen to the Jana Gana Mana being sung in Srinagar,” said Yatri Lalit Farswan, “Made those long hard days of the Yatra totally worthwhile.”

AICC Secretary Vaibhav Walia announces the end of the day’s walk and next steps

The end of the Yatra was followed by a press conference headline by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi. Two of his comments stood out. On Bharat Jodo, Gandhi said that “(it) is a vision; it is an idea of how India should move forward. It is not just a walk. The walk is an expression of a sentiment. The sentiment is- listen to people, embrace people, be affectionate to people…”

On the assault on institutions in the country he said that “…the RSS and BJP are … attacking the institutional framework of this country, whether it is the Parliament, whether it is the Assemblies, whether it is the Judiciary; whether it is the Media…”

And so culminated the long walk that was Bharat Jodo Yatra. We have been thinking for a while now about what could be the best way of closing the diary. Perhaps appreciating Congressmen Digvijay Singh and Jairam Ramesh for their leadership. Or the Yatris for their persistence. But in the end we think that these two pictures summarise best, the diversity of India and the experiences of the Yatra.

This is where we started…
And this is where we ended.

Ground research: Aparna Ashwarya (INC Communications Department research team)

Travel Facts:

1. District name: Srinagar
2. One of the most popular tourist destinations in India, Srinagar city is famous for its gardens, lakes and houseboats.
3. Srinagar’s Dal lake is one of the most popular tourists sites in the country.
4. The city is home to a number of famous religious shrines including Hazratbal and the Shankaracharya temple.

Tweet of the day: