"Manipur lost what it holds precious because of BJP": Rahul Gandhi at Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra launch
Before its commencement from Thoubal, the Congress MP offered floral tributes at Khongjom War Memorial, commemorating martyrs of the Anglo–Manipuri War
"We are here to listen to you and share your pain—and to present a new vision of India which is one of harmony and equity," Rahul Gandhi told the crowd assembled to see him off on the start of the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Thoubal, Manipur, with a promise to restore peace and harmony to the violence-ridden state.
The Congress leader started his tour on Sunday, 14 January, by paying homage at the Khongjom War Memorial in Thoubal before arriving at the grounds where the Yatra is being flagged off.
Arriving at the Imphal airport this afternoon to a rousing welcome from Congress supporters, Gandhi went straight to the memorial. He spent some time there paying homage to those killed in the Anglo–Manipur War of 1891. The monument commemorates the heroes of the erstwhile Manipur Kingdom who fought the British forces in the war.
Gandhi and other leaders from various parties then moved to the nearby private ground designated for the launch of the Nyay Yatra. The now renamed 'Nyay Maidan', in honour of the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, is currently hosting the public address by Congress leaders such as party president Mallikarjun Kharge.
The Nyay Yatra, originally slated to start from the state capital of Imphal, moved its launch venue to Thoubal after the state government denied the Congress permission. Thoubal sits a little to the south of the capital city.
Kharge in his public address reminded the audience that Gandhi has similarly toured for the public cause before, walking from Kanyakumari to Kashmir as part of his Bharat Jodo Yatra. "During this journey, he met the poor, women, children, journalists and small business owners," said Kharge, calling on India's citizen to support the current yatra—designated a quest for justice.
"We understand your loss and grief. We will bring back the harmony and peace for which Manipur was known," Gandhi himself promised the people of the state in his address.
Slamming the central government for its lack of engagement and initiative with respect to the Manipur crisis that has taken up the better part of a year now, Gandhi said that the governance infrastructure has clearly failed in Manipur and it is shameful that the country's prime minister still hasn't visited the state which is still crying out for justice, crying out to be heard.
"Lakhs of people faced losses, but the prime minister has not come here to wipe your tears, hold your hand or embrace you," he said.
The violence that broke out in the north-eastern state in May 2023 has so far claimed hundreds of lives and rendered thousands homeless or displaced.
Gandhi added ruefully, "Maybe for Narendra Modi, the BJP and the RSS, Manipur is not a part of India. Your pain is not their pain."
"We understand the pain that the people of Manipur have been through, we understand the hurt, the sadness. We will bring back harmony, peace and affection for which this state was known," he continued.
Earlier, Congress president Kharge also slammed the prime minister, saying that he came to the north-eastern state only when it was time to seek votes. "Modi has time to drive by the sea, take a dip in the sea, but has not come to Manipur, he said.
On the topic of justice, Kharge also noted the hoopla around the Ram Mandir inauguration in Ayodhya, and said ""The BJP has 'Ram' on its lips but carries a knife by their side. The BJP mixes religion and politics, and incites people."
The prime minister has 'Ram, Ram' on his lips, the Congress president noted, but added that Modi should not use Ram to get votes.
Reiterating that the Congress stands for social justice, secularism and equity, Kharge added that the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra is being undertaken to save the Constitution and democracy, and fight the fascist forces.
The Congress president said he was proud that a leader from his party was going from door to door to spread the message of peace.
The Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra will traverse 6,713 km, straddling 100 Lok Sabha constituencies and 337 assembly segments.
Gandhi and his supporters will alternating between a padayatra mode to meet people as it traverses various cities and communities, and buses for longer stretches of travel between key destinations.
The Yatra will cover 110 districts in 67 days, before culminating in Mumbai on 20 or 21 March, it is expected.
With inputs from PTI