Jammu: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Thursday, tried to strike an emotional chord with the people of the Union Territory (UT) as he described his entry to “J&K - the land of his ancestors”, as a “return to his roots.”
The former Congress president made these remarks as his much-hyped “Bharat Jodo Yatra” entered Jammu and Kashmir through Lakhanpur - the gateway to the UT this evening.
Major highlight of his entry to J&K - the last leg of Yatra- was that at Lakhanpur he was received by the National Conference president and the former Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah joined by Awami National Conference supremo Mazaffar Shah, reaffirming “Gandhi-Abdullah ties.” And this mutual admiration found reflection in the NC president's brief address also.
While addressing the gathering, Rahul at the very outset chose to revisit his “familial connection” to J&K as he said that he was overwhelmed with the warm welcome he received here in the UT despite the chilly wintry night.
“While I was walking towards J&K, I was thinking - the way I'm on the move to J&K after traversing over 3500 kms as a part of Yatra that began from Kanyakumari; decades ago my family would have moved to Uttar Pradesh from J&K. No wonder I was overpowered by this emotion that I was going back to my home. I'm walking back to my place, covering such a long distance on foot. And when a person goes back to his roots, it's always a great learning experience for him. I've come here not to tell you something but to learn from the people here. Next nine days I'll spend gaining new experience amongst you,” he said.
The Congress MP said that he was in J&K to share the agony of people here, to listen to their woes. “I know that you people have suffered a lot. Everyone is hurt. I will be blessed if I could share this suffering and this is the purpose behind this Yatra. I've entered J&K bowing my head to this pious land of yours,” he said.
Targetting the ruling dispensation and his political adversaries, Rahul reiterated his oft-repeated one-liner here at Lakhanpur also. “Nafrat Ke Bazar Mein Main Mohabbat Ki Dukan Kholnay Aaya Hoon...(I've come here to open a shop of love in the market dominated by hatred . .).”
Rahul, who was as usual in his white T-shirt, which has become an integral part of his new-found image during 'Bharat Jodo Yatra', while targetting his bete-noire BJP and RSS, said, “They were looting, pick-pocketing the people of this country using diversionary tactics. People have been looted through GST and demonetisation. Process is still on.”
Media too, as usual, was in his line of fire.
“Real issues are division, hatred being spread among different communities on the basis of religion, community, language, caste or creed, unemployment, inflation, black laws being enforced against farmers, small traders to benefit a couple of billionaires. The government of the day is using arm-twisting methods to ensure pliant-media. Unfortunately the media instead of highlighting these real issues, in league with the government, is focussing on the film stars and other non-issues to divert the attention of the masses. Our march is aimed at bringing back the attention of the country towards real issues. It is the spirit of unity and the power of love and compassion, which I've witnessed, right from Kanyakumari to this place, which did not allow us to get tired even after covering such a long distance,” Rahul said. He asserted it was, however, heartening to note that the venom of hatred was not all pervasive. “It has not yet seeped to the roots of the country. It's restricted to TV screens of pliant channels which would only talk about Hindus and Muslims,” he said.
Dr Farooq Abdullah, in his usual elements in his brief address, equated Rahul with the eighth century Hindu seer Adi Shankaracharya, drawing parity in the Yatra undertaken by them, though in different eras.
“Centuries ago, it was saint Shankaracharya, who had undertaken a Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir to create a renaissance. Now it is Rahul who is walking to unite India, liberate it of the venom of hatred and divisions through his 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, traversing thousands of kilometers. I don't know how this amazing thought dawned on him (Rahul). We wholeheartedly support him. But all my blessings are with him. I wish him success in his endeavours. I want to see his efforts succeeding to revive Lord Rama's India and Gandhi's India where we can all, including our sisters and daughters, walk holding our heads high, without any fear,” Farooq stated. He wound up by raising slogans praising Rahul, his Yatra and “Jai Hind.” Besides Farooq and Shah, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, senior Congress leaders viz., former Chief Minister Madhya Pradesh Digvijay Singh, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, general secretary incharge Communication AICC, MP and former minister Jairam Ramesh, AICC incharge J&K and MP Rajni Patil,JKPCC president Vikar Rasool and working president Raman Bhalla too were present there.
Vikar Rasool, in his brief address, stated that Yatra's grandeur would reach its pinnacle in J&K. Earlier after Yatra entered J&K, a flag handing-over ceremony took place near the statue of Maharaja Gulab Singh at Lakhanpur in Kathua.
Punjab Congress unit president Raja Warring handed over the tricolour to Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) president Vikar Rasool, thus symbolically representing the commencement of the last leg of Yatra in J&K.