18 November 2022

Bharat Jodo Diary (Midday)


By Pawan Khera and Manish Khanduri

Somewhere on the way between the starting point between ZP Primary School, Kupta, Balapur and the ending some 14 kilometres later at Varkhed Phata, Shegaon, Bharat Yatri Nanda Mhatre met her daughters whom she had left in the care of her husband when she joined the Bharat Jodo Yatra in early September.

It was an expected meeting, but she wasn’t sure just where they would meet each other. It was an emotional reunion. Said Vaibhavi, 20, “The word “Ma” has not been used in the house for a long time.” In fact, since September when the Yatra started. “I miss her so much,” said Yashashree, 14, simply, and almost in tears.

Bharat Yatri Nanda Mhatre had an emotional reunion with her daughters Yashashree, (Left) 14, and Vaibhavi, (Right) 20

In fact it’s a timely reminder of the sacrifices that the Yatris are making, having left their homes for five months. Even in a time of instant communication, it’s not easy leaving family and friends, and in fact a way of life behind.

This morning the #BharatJodoYatra commenced at its usual 6AM start, accompanied by the beating of drums, music and sloganeering.

Walking in the Yatra is like experiencing a slice of the rich diversity of life in India. We met Vandana Bhagwat who was waiting by the side of the road just watching the Yatra go by. The retired Professor had come from Pune with a friend but strained her foot and was using support. She was undeterred. This is a “historical event” she said “and I want to be part of it.” It’s people like Bhagat who form the steel frame of the Yatra – quiet, mostly in the background but with a strength and conviction that are unmatched. We salute you.

Vandana Bhagwat, retired Professor from Pune, is here to support the Yatra, come what may

Soon after Bhagat, we came across little Sarim, Anita and Sadeem who, all five or less, weren’t quite sure why they were there, but still happy to be there. Tomy, John and Shaiju who had come from the RC church in Nagpur were more certain – to see the Yatra go by and perhaps meet Rahul Gandhi.

Sarim, Anita and Sadeem who, all five or less, weren’t quite sure why they were there, but still happy to be there
Tomy, John and Shaiju from the RC church in Nagpur who had come to join the Yatra

There were an equally diverse group of people that walked with the Yatra today. These included Mathadi workers, descendants of Ma Jijau (Shivaji Maharaj’s mother), widows and mothers of victims who lost their lives in sewage and mseptic tanks; Tushar Gandhi; ex- serviceman Lance Naik Deepchand who lost both legs and one arm in the Kargil war, and Marathi actress Mona Ambegaonkar.

Tushar Gandhi joined the Yatra today, among other people

In the afternoon there is a planned visit to the Shri Sant Gajanan Maharaj Temple. Post that there is a public meeting near AnandSagar, Balapur Road, Shegaon. There will be no evening walking session of the Yatra today.

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.”
5. Buldhana district is the site of the Shri Gajanan Maharaj Temple, which is a major religious and tourist attraction (Anand Sagar – developed by the Temple trust reportedly at a cost of Rs 300 crore).
6. Lonar Crater Lake, located in Buldhana, is the second largest impact crater in basaltic rock in the world.