By Pawan Khera and Manish Khanduri
Leelatai Chitale, 93, is close to breaking down. We’ve met her on the morning of the 71st day of the #BharatJodoYatra, speaking to a Seva Dal team that included Congress MP Jairam Ramesh.
Chitale remembers the time when she, then 12, was arrested in the Quit India Movement. “I was released that evening, but my father and brother went to prison for three and a half years.”
She is concerned about the environment of hatred being fostered in the country. “Tell the people it wasn’t easy to get our freedom, but all classes and religions fought together.” And she wants to thank everyone who’s involved in the Yatra. She says that, knowing that people are once again fighting to unite India on the values of tolerance and respect, “I can die in peace.”
Not for a long time yet, we pray. It’s people like Leelatai who inspire Yatris to keep going in the face of all adversity.
The crowds were more than upbeat this morning as the Yatris began their days walk of some 15 plus kilometres. The starting point at Patur village was lit up like a gigantic outdoor party, with blaring music, performing street artists and huge crowds. Then we met Syed, Faisal and Mohammed along with their friends from Syed Zakir Hussain School, all dressed up as figures from Indian history.
The Yatris were accompanied this morning by the members of the Andh-Shradha Nirmulan Samiti (Anti Superstition Samiti), and also the Safai Karmachaari Organisation.
In the afternoon there is a press conference of Congress MP Rahul Gandhi. Later there is to be an interaction with farmer suicide widows over a traditional Bhakri meal.
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. Akola district is the birthplace of Dr Vijay P. Bhatkar, designer of India’s first supercomputer, Param 8000.
2. Akola district is well known for its forts such as Narnala Fort, Akot Fort, and Balapur Fort.
3. Ashoka Vatika, an important pilgrimage site of Buddhists is located in Akola district.
4. The region of Akola along with the Berar province is mentioned in the, Mahabharata. The region was part of the famous kingdom of “Vidharbha”.