Bharat Jodo Yatra: Tuning in to their ‘Mann ki Baat’
Rahul could at once connect with Deglur’s multi-lingual, multi-faith ethos. After a huge and glittering welcome, he garlanded the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj
The Bharat Jodo Yatra was delayed by over three hours as it entered Maharashtra on Monday, November 7, the 60th day of the long march. But the enthusiasm of people at Deglur did not flag. There had gathered in their thousands, and when the Yatris finally entered the state around 9.45 p.m., the welcome was tumultuous.
The people who were waiting at Deglur, on Maharashtra’s border with Telangana, were not all from the small town, which has a population of just 60,000. Deglur is a tehsil in Nanded, a district once part of the Nizam’s State of Hyderabad. They seemed to have come from far-off places.
Deglur was an apt place, culturally and symbolically, to begin the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Maharashtra. It has geographical, linguistic, religious and social plurality. On one side of the town is Telangana (formerly Andhra Pradesh), on another Karnataka. Although it is part of Maharashtra, since its integration in 1960 with the state’s Marathispeaking populace, as part of the linguistic reorganisation of states, the town has people who speak Telugu, Kannada, Urdu and Marathi, who live in apparent harmony and happiness.
It has its share of poor people, but you don’t see the kind of grinding poverty all too common in India. It has a middle class that is not necessarily upwardly mobile, not always on the make. It is a trading centre without the “trader mentality” of, say, Ahmedabad. To a large extent, it owes its cultural pluralism, its religiously accommodative character to the Hyderabad liberation struggle and saintly fighters like Ramanand Tirtha.
The political leadership and legacy have been sustained by the dynasty of Shankarrao Chavan. Last year, Nanded celebrated the birth centenary of Shankarrao, whose son Ashok is the ‘captain’ of the Bharat Jodo Yatra in the state. His meticulous planning and effort to bring in civil society groups to make the Yatra a truly representative one was the talk of the town.
Rahul could at once connect with Deglur’s multi-lingual, multi-faith ethos. After a huge and glittering welcome, he garlanded the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the man who led the Indian subcontinent’s first ‘swaraj’ movement, in the 17th century. In his brief speech, he urged people to respect and promote the values of Shivaji, and then, immediately after the speech, walked to the gurudwara, 10 kilometres away. Nearly 3,000 joined him on this ‘Mashal Yatra’. The day had been a long haul, but there was still no visible sign of fatigue or exhaustion. He finally called it a day around midnight. His stamina, and the ability to keep smiling through likely exhaustion are a feature of conversation among onlookers and activists.
The next day, November 8, the Yatra was to start from the same gurudwara he had visited the previous evening on the eve of Gurpurab (Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary). Once again, the same frenzy to get close to him, to walk with him, to have a few minutes of conversation…. And they were not just children or giddy teenagers—the crush of people included students, writers, social activists, hapless people oppressed by local thugs, farmers, small and medium entrepreneurs, women of all ages, artists…
It was impossible to humour all, but he listened to anyone who met him, without any pretension or airs, tuning in to their ‘Mann ki Baat’, so to speak. This wasn’t for the cameras.
Published: 12 Nov 2022, 12:45 PM