By Pawan Khera and Manish Khanduri
Evenings are for crowds, evenings are for mobilisation. You can’t expect crowds to turn up at 6 or 7 AM in the morning. So goes the common wisdom in this #BharatJodoYatra and for the large part it’s absolutely correct.
Common wisdom, however, was turned upside down on its head this morning. As soon as the Yatris commenced their walk from Waspangara Phata, they could be forgiven for thinking they were lining up for a rock concert or an international cricket match. Raucous, excited crowds. Slogan chanting, drums beating, music playing – you name it and it was happening.
And so it went on literally for kilometre upon kilometre – and even the most casual observer could hardly fail to be blown away by the sheer mass of people.
Mirabai Lokhande, Shardabai and Sudavati were there having woken up at 5AM. They organised amongst themselves, and were in their second hour of waiting for the Yatris by the time we met them. “We’re feeling very happy to be here to see the Yatra, and Rahul Gandhi,” said Mirabai.
If the large number of people who turned out were noteworthy, so were the celebrations. We met colourful teams of artists every few hundred metres, playing rhythmic and hypnotic beats on a wide variety of percussion instruments. However the rangoli artists took the day with their incredible bright colours and designs. The largest rangoli we saw was of Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and it was, believe it or not, 100 square feet or more. In fact it has to be walked off with a special overlooking balcony which Yatris could climb for a view!
We met on the road Abdul Ansali, Congressman representing disabled individuals. “I intend to walk across Maharashtra, and want to tell everyone that we are Hindustani and have a voice too.” he said. Also walking with us were a large group of Buddhist monks.
The previous day, 13 of November, was a day of rest for the Yatris. However there was a press conference attended by the state leadership including ex-chief minister Ashok Chawan and PCC president Nana Patole. Speaking on the occasion Patole told the assembled journalists that the Yatra completing its planned journey through Maharashtra, didn’t mean that there wouldn’t be a follow up. “As soon as the Yatra is completed in Kashmir”, he said, “We will begin our own in the state. The way Rahul has done it, we will also do our Padyatra. As soon as Rahul Ji’s Yatra reaches Kashmir we will start.”
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)
Midday Travel Facts:
1. Current District – Hingoli
2. Hingoli district is the birthplace of famous Marathi writer, F.M Shinde.
3. Hingoli is well known for its educational institutions.
4. Aundha Naganath, one of the 12 jyotirlingas is located in Hingoli district making it an important pilgrimage destinations for Hindus.