‘I understand pain of Kashmiris, armed forces’
SRINAGAR, Jan 30: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi today said that he undertook the Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY) to save the liberal and secular ethos of the country which was facing an assault. He said that he understands the pain of Kashmiris and the armed forces as he has himself gone through it.
Gandhi who swapped the T-shirt that he had worn for the majority of the march for a woollen Kashmiri gown to ward off the cold, while addressing the rally at SK Stadium Srinagar amid heavy snowfall said the aim of his BJY was to save the liberal and secular ethos of the country which, he claimed, was facing an assault from the BJP and the RSS.
“I have not done this [Yatra] for myself or for the Congress but for the people of the country. Our aim is to stand against the ideology that wants to destroy the foundation of this country,” he said.
The Congress leader accused the BJP of “instigating violence” and said that they can’t understand the meaning of pain the way it is understood by Kashmiris, the families of armed forces killed on the line of duty, or him.
“The people of Kashmir will understand it. The CRPF men, the Army men and their families will understand it. I mean to say those who instigate violence like Modi ji, Amit Shah ji, Ajit Doval, and people of RSS, they cannot understand this. They will not understand the pain. What would have gone through the hearts of the children of Pulwama soldiers, I know. It has happened with me,” Gandhi said.
He said he was advised against walking in Kashmir on the grounds that he might be attacked.
“I thought over it and then decided that I will walk in my home and with my people. Why not give them [his enemies] a chance to change the colour of my shirt, let them make it red. But the people of Kashmir did not give me hand grenades, only their hearts full of love,” he said.
The Congress leader said the message of the BJY was to see the end of phone calls giving the message of deaths in the Valley.
He dared Home Minister Amit Shah and other BJP leaders to conduct or hold foot march in the Valley like the one he did. “I am sure they can’t do it as they are afraid and have fear in their hearts,” he said.
Rahul said that Kashmiriyat was a thought and Kashmir was a home for him. “In fact, the thought Kashmiriyat presents is a home for me. For me, the home is not just four-walls but the thought Kashmiriyat gives and presents,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Priyanka Gandhi said that the main message of BJY was to spread love and call for the end of hatred by bringing the hearts together. “Finally, we have succeeded,” he said.
In a show of Opposition strength, leaders of several national and regional parties braving snowfall and bone-chilling cold shared the stage with Congress leaders at a rally.
Besides Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi, the Wayanad Lok Sabha MP was also joined by leaders from the DMK, the JMM, the BSP, the NC, the PDP, the CPI, the RSP, the VCK and the IUML.
Addressing the rally, CPI leader D Raja urged all secular parties of the country to unite. “We all fought together for the independence of the country and liberated the country from British Raj. All secular parties must come together to liberate the country from BJP Raj,” he added.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti while speaking on the occasion said the country sees a ray of hope in Gandhi.
Former Chief Minister and NC leader Omar Abdullah asked Gandhi to undertake another yatra from west to east of the country.
“On this last function of the yatra, I congratulate Gandhi on behalf of myself, my father and my party. This yatra has been successful. This yatra has shown that there are people in the country who like the BJP but there are also those who like the other idea which is of brotherhood,” he said.
“I request Rahul Gandhi to undertake a yatra from west to east. I would like to walk with him,” he added.
RSP leader Premchandran declared his party’s solidarity with the Congress leader. “A historic movement was undertaken. Rahul Gandhi has proved that he is the right leader to fight against these divisive forces,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Rahul unfurled the national flag at the yatra’s campsite at Cheshma Shahi in Srinagar. He later joined the Congress president Kharge at the PCC office for hoisting the national flag.
Hundreds of people attended the rally despite heavy snowfall and chilly weather under unprecedented security arrangements. Earlier, it looked the rally may be cancelled as Kashmir was snowed in in the morning.