‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ participants in high spirits, people join in from all over the nation

Many participants of the 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' have suffered cracked heels, bruised feet, swollen ankles, pain in the knees and aches all over the body, but undeterred, they continue to march on

NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
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Ashlin Mathew

Cracked heels, bruised feet, swollen ankles, pain in the knees and aches all over the body. Such symptoms were commonly being experienced by many of those participating in the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’. The body is tired, but the spirit is willing. Several of them fell behind the main yatris, but they held on to each other, sloganeered and walked the last mile of the day.

By day five, the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ had covered more than 110 km of the cross-country journey, in which Congress leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi is participating as a party member and worker among other prominent people.

The yatra, which began on September 8 from Kanyakumari, passed through Nagercoil and crossed into Kerala at Parassala on the evening of September 10. The yatris will be in Kerala until September 29, after which they will cross over to Karnataka.

NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin

Sixty-year-old Harminder Singh had come from Maharashtra with the intention to walk all the way to Kashmir in the yatra. He is not part of the delegation or the three groups of yatris – Bharat Yatris, Pradesh Yatris and Athithi Yatris. He has made his own arrangements for travel and lodging.

“I want to see if the yatra will attract me. The condition of the country worries me and I want to see how much I can contribute to bringing this country together,” he said.

Vijay Prakash, a 27-year-old mathematics teacher from Aurangabad in Bihar, insisted on calling it ‘Rahul ji’s yatra’. He said that Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru’s family had given their lives for the country.

“Now is the time to help the country and the party which gave us all the freedoms that we see and have today. All the famed institutions, banks and industries such as Navoday Schools, AIIMS, IITs and Kendriya Vidyalayas that we see around us were built by the Congress,” he said.

NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin

The RSS and a few rich businessmen have hijacked the country and the time had now come for the people to realise it and come together, he added.

Another participant, Mahender Yadav (63), was under the belief that the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ will begin in December. When he realised his folly on September 3, the resident of UP’s Ghazipur packed his bags and headed for Anand Vihar, from where he took a general compartment ticket to Thiruvananthapuram on September 5. He met Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav at Nagercoil and joined the yatra as a part of his group.

Several Swaraj India members are part of the cross-country yatra as they attempt to meet farmers and civil society groups along the route.

NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin
NH Photo by Ashlin

For Yadav, it was important to join the yatra as he insists that he was also a part of former PM Chandra Shekhar’s Bharat Yatra in 1983. He was 26 then. It was a different time and there was political consciousness of a different kind, noted Yadav, as it was just after the Emergency.

“I had walked the entire stretch. Then a few people had joined the yatra, but not as many as now. But the population has also increased now. I joined the yatra because the times are changing. There is no love for one another in society now. It breaks your heart as our fathers did not fight to build a country where everyone hates each other,” asserted Yadav.

Weaving in and out of the main group of yatris and walking alongside others was Telangana resident Dhanalakshmi, who is also the state women president of the ‘Sarpanch Forum’. “I am interested in seeing all the states. We can understand the issues of farmers and women here. I have come to realise that land is in shortage in Kerala, but there is unity amongst people,” said Dhanalakshmi, who joined the yatra as she believes it will be historic.

She had earlier this year (March 3-April 18) walked 600 km from Bhoodan Pochampally in Telangana to Sevagram in Maharashtra to mark the 75th anniversary of Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan Movement.

Thiruvanthapuram resident and CP(M) party worker Rafiq M, who was waiting to catch a glimpse of the yatris, insisted that Rahul Gandhi was an inspiration for everyone. “I may not support the Congress in the state, but we all supported him for the Lok Sabha elections, which is why the party won 19 of the 20 seats in the state. The Congress is necessary for the progress of the country,” he said.

He was not the only one waiting alongside the road. There were many housewives, children, young football players, older and younger men who had all come willingly to be part of the crowd as Rahul Gandhi passed close to their homes.

Rakesh Singh (name changed) from Madhya Pradesh joined the yatra as he believes in the politics represented by Rahul Gandhi. “I try to follow him all the time. I have a government job, but the BJP harasses me incessantly as they know whom I support. Currently, I’m on leave as I want to walk until Kashmir with Rahul Gandhi. After that, I hope they will go from West to East in the country,” said Singh, who wants the country to be united. He too joined the padayatra by spending money from his own pocket.

“There are no jobs. Poverty is on the rise and I can see it in my village too. We need to talk about it. We have to unite the people of the country and tell them that Modi has sold the country. They are constantly playing the Hindu-Muslim card, which only divides people. Hatred cannot run the country,” he said.

He said he wants to play his small part in bringing people together. “We have to talk to people and listen to them. I will talk to as many people as I can. Unless we listen to what people want, how can the country and the party grow,” he said, poignantly.

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