By Pawan Khera and Manish Khanduri
“Parivar hai mera woh (”he’s like family”) says Shantabai Rathore about Congress MP Rahul Gandhi. She was responding to a question – why and for whom was she waiting so patiently by the roadside at 6AM in the morning? We cannot even begin to capture the affection in her voice by just putting her words on paper.
Like Shantibai there were many others who waited as the #BharatJodoYatra crossed over from Maharashtra and entered the state of Madhya Pradesh.
Bodarli village, which today was the start of the Madhya Pradesh leg of the Padyatra, was the scene of much excitement, with sloganeering Congress cadre, roads decorated with rangoli and children turned out by the the road side to welcome the Yatris.
Welcoming the Yatris were a host of state leaders and cadre, including former chief minister Kamal Nath, Jitu Patwari, working president; Arun Yadav and Kantilal Bhuria, ex state presidents.
And we saw that same affection in the 14 kilometre walk from Bodarli to Jainabad Fata. “So what if I’m unable to meet him personally,” said Jaili Bai, whom we saw literally dancing to the beats of the Bharat Jodo Yatra song. “Just seeing him is enough. He’s Indira Gandhi’s grandson (pota) which means he’s my grandson too.”
It was a brisk morning walk mostly through rural countrysides and the Banana fields that the district is famous for, lining both sides of the road. Children along the route had lined up hoping to catch a glimpse of the Yatra before heading off to their schools. We caught up with Sanjay from Saraswati Shishu Mandir who’d gotten up at 4 am with his 50 or so school mates waiting for the Yatris. Wasn’t he feeling the cold? “A little” he confessed, “But we’re happy to be here.” Indeed we saw along the way groups of excited children who were all too willing to shout out Bharat Jodo slogans.
At a press conference today, the 11 Bharat Yatris from Madhya Pradesh were introduced to the press and spoke about their reasons for participating in the Yatra. While everyone had their own unique motivations, universally the Yatris spoke about the need to speak up against the environment of social, cultural and economic divisiveness fostered by the BJP/ RSS combine. Overall the mood was buoyant and the Yatris were excited to be commencing their journey in the great state of Madhya Pradesh.
Later in the the afternoon Rahul Gandhi will have interactions with Banana Cultivators and the power loom workers of Burhanpur.
Currently in the state of Madhya Pradesh, 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. District name: Burhanpur
2. Located on the northern bank of the river Tapti, Burhanpur shares its southern border with Maharashtra.
3. The district is the largest producer of bananas in Madhya Pradesh.
4. It is a crucial power loom industry centre in Madhya Pradesh.
5. Burhanpur town was once known as the cultural capital of the Mughals.
6. Mumtaz Mahal was buried here before her remains were sent to the Taj Mahal in Agra.
7. Burhanpur town is home to the only mosque to contain Urdu and Sanskrit scripts and also the Burhanpur Gurudwara, an important pilgrimage centre for Sikhs.
8. It has the exquisitely designed Dargah e Hakimi of the Bohra community.
9. It is home to the Kundi Bhandara, an engineering marvel of canals 80 feet below the ground.
10. In 1857, this region saw a popular uprising under Tatya Tope.