Herald View: The Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra & the stomach for a fight
As the 2-month Nyay Yatra begins, at stake is not just an election, but a way to remind ourselves not to give up on the idea of ‘Justice, social, economic and political’
It’s a fitting way to set an alternative political agenda, when the government’s cheerleaders in media will be falling all over themselves to make the so-called ‘pran pratishtha’ ceremony look like the most epochal event of their lives.
You’ve surely heard, despite the deafening media noise already about the Ayodhya event, that the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra is on.
It’ll be another odyssey, this time straddling 15 Indian states on an east–west axis. It will cover an estimated 6,700 kilometres in just over two months, and pass through the states of Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
Sounds daunting? Well, it is.
In more than the obvious way of being a physical grind.
Aware that he was able to go past the pain barrier during the five-month-long first padayatra—which went on from September 2022 to January 2023—Rahul Gandhi will know that he has the physical endurance. He’d spoken of that yatra as a tapasya—and the pain involved in the penance was an essential ingredient of the effort.
This yatra is probably another kind of tapasya, and will test his stamina in other ways.
The pundits have already pronounced on its uncertain rewards in the near term—and they may even be right, given that the Lok Sabha election is due just a few months down the line.
But to see the symbolism or substance of the yatra in purely tactical, electoral terms is to miss the point.
If the subliminal message of the Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY) was that India belongs to all its citizens, the key assertion of the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra (BJNY) is that India owes social justice (‘nyay’) to all its citizens—the unfulfilled promise of the Constitution to:
...secure to all its citizens,Justice, social, economic and political...
For those Indian citizens whose memory of that promise is now faint, it might be fit to recall the words of the Preamble, which states:
We, the People of India having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all
Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation; ...
At stake, then, for the yatra is not just an election, critical though the results might be in keeping India tethered, at least in letter, to this Constitution.
Given the current political drift, given the brazen majoritarian assertion that threatens to overwhelm the nation, given that all you might hear in the run-up to these elections is more triumphalism about showing Indian Muslims their place in the new order, the yatra is also a way to remind Indians that we haven’t all given up on the idea of ‘Justice, social, economic and political’.
Or the idea of ‘Equality of status and of opportunity’.
Or the idea of ‘Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship’.
The Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra will hopefully drive home the message that a still-overwhelming voting majority of Indians (>60 per cent) fancies the Orwellian idea that ‘[We either] all live in a decent world or nobody does’.
It is meaningful that the Yatra will wend its way through the Hindi/Hindu heartland, where the Congress has weakened over the years and perhaps as a consequence, Hindu majoritarianism has run amok.
It matters that the Congress, and hopefully others in the INDIA bloc, will dare the BJP in its lair, in the very areas of the Hindi/Hindu heartland where its bigoted ideas seem to have taken the firmest hold.
It matters that the Yatra should begin in Manipur, where a state- sponsored civil war has raged for over eight months.
It is significant that the Yatra will spend the maximum time (11 days) in Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress holds just one Lok Sabha seat (Raebareli) out of 80.
What it shows is that the party and its travelling mascot are unafraid (remember ‘Daro Mat’?) and have the stomach for a fight.
Nobody ever won without stepping into the ring.