Bharat Jodo Yatra: A ‘Caesura’ Moment for the Yatra

For the Bharat Jodo Yatra, 30 January should be seen as its caesura moment—even as plans for the onward journey, to continue the Yatra’s mission, acquire definition

Bharat Jodo Yatra: A ‘Caesura’ Moment for the Yatra

G.N. Devy

In classical Latin literature, particularly the epics and heroic poetry, the ‘caesura’ has been used to telling effect. This poetic device, tied intimately to the rhyme of the words and the rhythm of the lines, introduces a pause in an ongoing heroic narrative. A caesura introduces a thoughtful break. It draws the reader’s attention to the meaning of the sentence—often a long one, so common in epics—away from the hypnotising rhythm.

The modern science of neurology points to a comparable move of neurons when it describes the human brain as a ‘recursive brain’. The human brain’s ‘recursive ability’ refers to its capacity to not just think but also think about those thoughts. The word ‘reflection’ comes close to conveying this capability of the recursive brain. In poetry, the caesura is a tangible example of how the recursive brain works—to think about thinking simultaneously with an ongoing thought process.

For the Bharat Jodo Yatra, 30 January should be seen as its caesura moment—even as plans for the onward journey, to continue the Yatra’s mission, acquire definition. It’s a caesura moment because this break is a deeply meaningful moment of pause, of reflection, and the epic task at hand must continue till the mission is accomplished. It’s a caesura also because it won’t do to suddenly veer away in another direction, and because it cannot be a leisurely pause, when the epic journey must continue. It is a moment of swift, yet deep, reflection, on the sense of what has been gleaned so far in this epic pursuit.

The Yatra got underway in September, reminding us that it was continuing the task Mahatma Gandhi had undertaken during the ‘Bharat Chhodo’ (Quit India) movement. It has reimagined the symbolism of the 1942 people’s agitation. It has succeeded in underlining the need to pull India out of the atmosphere of hatred that envelops it today. It has spread the message of ‘love’ as the keyword in an ideology founded on courage and compassion.

Bharat Jodo Yatra: A ‘Caesura’ Moment for the Yatra

Time and again, even those who were moved by the Yatra’s message have asked: what next? To answer that question as a ‘to do’ list is to drag the spirit of the Yatra down to the level of a political agenda or to liken it to so many other yatras in post-Independence India, undertaken for shortterm political advantage. To stay true to its lofty register, its cultural and spiritual appeal, the Yatra’s caesura moment must be used to spell out ‘what not to do’. For instance, clearly denouncing actions in public life that focus on communal and caste considerations, or eschewing community initiatives for narrowminded gains such as electoral success.

This is also a moment to contemplate how the Congress party of today will engage with the lofty goals of the Yatra. No doubt the party must survive and strive for political success. It must fight politically the source of violence and hatred in the country. However, the Yatra has not been driven primarily by political considerations. The Yatra’s high-minded ideals of inclusion, of pluralism, of caring for the most disadvantaged sections of society, of tuning in to the voices of the poor and powerless must find ample room in the party’s thought processes, even as it builds itself back into a fighting-fit organisation vying for power.

The two must find an easy equation and carve their spaces without undermining each other. For example, the political moves the Congress party makes to build electoral alliances should not erode the emotional capital the Yatra has created. Admitted these lines are not so easy to draw and there is room for conflict. Yet, with a beginning made during the Yatra, this dual dynamic will hopefully settle down over the next few months.

On the other hand, extensions of the Yatra need to be found in non-party forums and groups that participated in the Yatra. For example, it will be good to organise follow-up public meetings, in districts along the route the Yatra took, on a ‘no caste, no community’ basis. It will be good to invite participants from parts of India the Yatra could not cover in this edition. This will help spread the message to other parts of India. The Bharat Yatris, who walked all the way from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, could take the lead in this effort.

When this exercise begins, and when the people of India, irrespective of their caste or community identity, start owning the idiom of the Yatra, the people themselves will drive the mission to reconnect, to reunite, to fight the political forces that sow hatred in the country. A change of government is the most pressing need to give the Constitution of India a second lease of life. But if there is no effort to change people’s perception of the State, and to reconnect the post-Independence generations of Indians with the values and ideals that went into the making of this Republic, a mere change in government may not secure India’s future as a constitutional democracy. The movement to make the people of India responsible for its Constitution and all the values it embodies, to reconnect them to the cultural heritage of a syncretic society will be a worthy cause to embrace at this caesura moment. A billion feet must walk the Yatra’s path.

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