Mehbooba Mufti praises Rahul Gandhi's understanding of J&K's pain in new book

The book gives readers different accounts of Bharat Jodo Yatra, the 4,000-kilometre nationwide march from September 2022 to January 2023

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in Kashmir during the Bharat Jodo Yatra in January 2023 (photo: @harsht2024/X)
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in Kashmir during the Bharat Jodo Yatra in January 2023 (photo: @harsht2024/X)
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PTI

Only the Congress, and in particular Rahul Gandhi, can understand the pain and dilemma that Jammu and Kashmir has been plunged into, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti says in a new book, adding that she has never before seen such "despair and despondency" in the erstwhile state.

In "Bharat Jodo Yatra: Reclaiming India's Soul", a collection of essays releasing on Friday, 29 March, Mufti argues that the path to save the "very idea of India" leads through Jammu and Kashmir, a "mini India" in itself -- the one where different religions have peacefully co-existed for centuries.

The book gives readers different accounts of the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra, the 4,000-kilometre nationwide march from September 2022 to January 2023.

Mufti, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, was all praise for Rahul Gandhi in her essay, "Bharat Jodo: Restoring Kashmiriyat, Jamhooriyat", co-written with her daughter Ilitija Mufti.

"Today throughout the length and breadth of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, the people feel short changed. If one turns the pages of history, it's perhaps only the Congress, especially RG (Rahul Gandhi), who can understand the pain and dilemma that Jammu and Kashmir has been plunged into.

"I hope that if the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) does indeed win 2024, it makes efforts to heal the gaping wounds of my people," she writes.

The People's Democratic Party (PDP) is part of the opposition INDIA bloc along with the Congress. There is no decision yet on seat sharing arrangements between the alliance partners in the union territory.

“Being not only a Kashmiri but also a mainstream leader who joined the rough and tumble of politics over three decades ago, I’ve never seen such despair and despondency in Jammu and Kashmir before. People are gripped by a crippling sense of insecurity about their identity, land and jobs,” Mufti says.

"In such distressing circumstances, one can’t state enough the crucial role the Congress can play in alleviating the suffering of the people across the state. Let’s not forget it was Jawaharlal Nehru’s relentless efforts on a personal and political level that ensured Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India," she adds.

Giving a graphic account of the march and her conversation with Rahul Gandhi during the Yatra's concluding Kashmir leg, Mufti says she was "amazed by the scope of his knowledge", a far cry from the "demeaning and willful image of Pappu" that was thrust upon him.

"I've interacted with RG on previous occasions, but this time I saw a completely different side... I found him to be well informed as we conversed about various issues, both national and international. I wondered how much money and energy must have gone into the BJP's pet project of wrongfully projecting him as an ignorant politician.

Book cover of latest release 'Bharat Jodo Yatra: Reclaiming India's Soul'
Book cover of latest release 'Bharat Jodo Yatra: Reclaiming India's Soul'
(photo: PTI)

"We were so deeply engrossed in our conversation that three hours of walking 15 kilometres flew by in an instant."

The 64-year-old also recalls how her mother, who refused to leave their house since the passing away of her father, former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, in 2016, marched with Gandhi in the middle of Chillai Kalan -- the harshest winter in Kashmir -- on 28 January 2023.

"The sight of a young man vilified and berated, yet being showered with such deep affection must have struck a chord somewhere with her (the mother)... Despite my reluctance, my mother dug in her heels.

"There was more to come. My daughter Iltija waded into the conversation. 'Ma, I also want to walk with him.' I was stumped. Rare are the occasions when I’m at a loss for words. I had little choice but to cave in," says Mufti, admitting that Gandhi had managed to charm all the three generations effortlessly.

Former spymaster AS Dulat, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, CPI leader D Raja, Congress leader Salman Khurshid, activists Nikhil Dey and Medha Patkar are among the other contributors of the book published by Harper Collins India. It is edited by Pushparaj Deshpande and Ruchira Chaturvedi.

Gandhi recently concluded his second mass outreach programme, the 63-day 'Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra'. This time he travelled from the east of the country to the west.

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Published: 28 Mar 2024, 9:08 PM
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