Pawan Khera and Manish Khanduri
Having walked around 16 kilometres in the morning session, the evening session that started near Vadegaon Village and ended at Dhanegaon in Akola district was a comparative breeze. ‘Only’ 7 kilometres or thereabouts. “These days you can do that distance in your sleep,” says Yatri Sachin Dwivedi. 71 days on the road have certainly hardened the bodies.
It was a short walk, but no different in terms of the active, engaged crowds that are accompanying the Yatra. Sidhu Burajdar had come with his dance troupe from Sholapur almost 600 kilometres away, just to perform for the Yatris. We also encountered cadets from the National Military School at Akola who were training to try out for the armed forces. They wanted to highlight how the BJP’s army recruitment scheme, Agnipath, was detrimental to their prospects. Said Vrishabh, a cadet, “We have prepared for two years to try out for recruitment, and Agnipath has destroyed our hopes for a long army career.”
On the road we met famed social activist Medha Parkar (who, incidentally, along with five other activists later walked with Rahul Gandhi). We asked her why she was participating in the Yatra. Her reply beats extensive quoting. “This is a question of existence, a battle of astitva versus asmita. All parties have to come together to form a common platform to protect the constitution. What Rahul Gandhi is doing with the Bharat Jodo Yatra is a Jan Andolan. I told him he’s become an andolan jeevi!”
We are grateful for the kindness of the people on the road, their generosity of spirit quintessentially Indian. We stopped by the way and in the absence of a tea shop nearby, took a chance and asked a household for a cup of tea. There, over a piping hot cup of delicious chai, we met with Ashok Sudke, his wife Sarla, their son Vaibhav and his daughter Vaibhavi, aged 3. All were waiting for the Yatra to come by. “No one’s ever come here before”, said Sarla. Hopefully the Bharat Jodo Yatra today made up for that absence.
Speaking at a freewheeling press conference in the afternoon, Rahul Gandhi stated in response to a question that the Yatra “Is an idea, a way of working and a journey. We felt that the BJP approach is filled with hatred, is fearful and spreads violence. The goal of the Yatra is to tell the people there are other ways. And we are successful in doing that.”
Currently in the state of Maharastra, 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)
End of Day Travel Facts
1. District name: Akola
2. Akola district is the birthplace of Dr Vijay P. Bhatkar, designer of India’s first supercomputer, Param 8000.
3. Akola district is well known for its forts such as Narnala Fort, Akot Fort, and Balapur Fort.
4. Ashoka Vatika, an important pilgrimage site of Buddhists is located in Akola district.
5. The region of Akola along with the Berar province is mentioned in the, Mahabharata. The region was part of the famous kingdom of “Vidharbha.”
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