Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who reached Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday evening for the last leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, said that he had come to listen and share the pain of the people of J&K.
“It feels like returning home. My family at one point of time had moved out from J&K to Uttar Pradesh. Once you return to your roots, you learn a lot about people, the place and the country. I am aware of people’s suffering in J&K, as all of them have suffered irrespective of their religion or caste. I bow my head before them. I am here to listen and share your pain and learn from you during my nine-day stay,” Mr. Gandhi said.
Hundreds of supporters carrying torches welcomed Mr. Gandhi at Lakhanpur, which is the gateway of J&K. National Conference (NC) president and Member of Parliament Farooq Abdullah received Mr. Gandhi, who is concluding his yatra in Srinagar on January 30.
Diverting attention from unemployment
Speaking at a public rally, Mr. Gandhi accused the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of spreading hatred, pitting one religion against another, one caste against another and one linguistic group against another. “We think hatred has gone deep into the society. However, after walking 3800 km from Kanyakumari, I realized that is not the case. People carry a deeper sense of love and not hatred,” Mr. Gandhi said.
Mr. Gandhi said that the issues of a Hindu-Muslim divide, hatred and violence are deliberately raked up to take away the attention from real issues. He attacked the BJP-led government at the Centre, accusing it of diverting the attention of people from real issues such as unemployment and inflation.
“Demonetisation and wrong GST are tools and not a policy with the government. All through my yatra, I got to hear one word from youth, which is unemployment. This county is lying to its youths that they can aspire to become doctors, engineers and IAS officers. That is only for one percent of the population, the rest will remain poor and unemployed. Poor people are toiling and feeding a few millionaires. Two Indias are being created,” Mr. Gandhi said.
He accused the government of working like a gang of pickpockets, using issues such as the Hindu-Muslim to ensure tha thet focus is somewhere else and not on the real problems of the country.
‘Joining people’s hearts’
Mr. Gandhi will address another public rally in Jammu on January 23 before heading for the Kashmir valley. More local leaders, including the NC’s Omar Abdullah, the People’s Democratic Party’s Mehbooba Mufti and her daughter Iltija Mufti, CPI(M)‘s M.Y. Tarigami and the Awami National Conference’s Muzaffar Shah, are likely to join the yatra later.
Meanwhile, Dr. Abdullah, who interacted with the media earlier in the day at Lakhanpur, said that he had joined the yatra to highlight the need “to strengthen the idea of unity in diversity”. He added, “We need not to fight religious wars. All religions are equal. Ram has nowhere said one should kill a Muslim or Sikh.”
Describing the yatra as “a live example of the ray of hope being alive in the country”, Dr. Abdullah said, “I am close to 90 years old. Had I been younger I would have walked with Mr. Gandhi from Kanyakumari. He is doing the job of joining the hearts of people.”
On elections in J&K, he said that the more that the Election Commission of India delays it, the more it’s an attack on democracy. “The ECI should be functioning independently but is under BJP’s pressure,” he added.