Rahul Gandhi prevented from visiting Assam’s Batadrava shrine

The Congress leader was stopped on the way to Batadrava Than, a shrine and birthplace of saint-reformer Srimanta Sankaradeva; he was also barred from holding a meeting in Assam’s Morigaon district; he later addressed a rally in Meghalaya’s Nongpoh

January 22, 2024 10:29 am | Updated 09:06 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with party leaders and supporters sits in protest after he was not allowed to visit the Sri Sri Sankar Dev Satra during the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, in Nagaon district, Assam, on January 22, 2024.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with party leaders and supporters sits in protest after he was not allowed to visit the Sri Sri Sankar Dev Satra during the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, in Nagaon district, Assam, on January 22, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra was disrupted on January 22, when the Assam Police prevented him from visiting Batadrava Than, a shrine and birthplace of 15th-16th century saint-reformer Srimanta Sankaradeva who propagated a neo-Vaishnav sect. Besides, he was also prevented from holding a meeting in the State’s Morigaon district, citing law and order concerns.

The yatra later entered entered Meghalaya where Mr. Gandhi addressed a rally.

High drama prevailed on the ninth day of the yatra that began from Manipur on January 14, when Mr. Gandhi and his supporters were stopped by the police in Assam’s Nagaon district, on the way to Batadrava Than. A video showed police personnel blocking Mr. Gandhi’s path and he was heard asking them why he was not being allowed into the shrine. “I was invited there on 11th [January]. I think they have been pressurised... They have been obviously ordered from the top. They don’t want me to go,” he said.

Also Read | Assam Government threatening people not to join Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, alleges Rahul Gandhi

Mr. Gandhi had left for the monastery at Batadrava early in the morning but was stopped at Haibargaon, around 17 km away, prompting him and other party leaders to sit on a dharna.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh told journalists, “We managed to convince the local authorities to let our local MP Gaurav Gogoi and local MLA Sibamoni Bora enter the shrine, which showed democracy was still alive. Rahulji left after two hours of squatting outside the barricade, interacting with the people,” Mr. Ramesh said. “The delay affected the yatra schedule for the day.”

Mr. Gogoi said the shrine holds immense importance for the followers of neo-Vaishnavism. “...Rahul Gandhi was denied permission to visit Batadrava Than by the police citing law & order and pre-scheduled program. The fact is the opposite because there was no program taking place,” he wrote on X. Mr. Gogoi said the shrine was empty and a rumour was spread that a law-and-order situation might arise. “Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma brought a black day to the Batadrava Than and the legacy of Sankaradeva,” he said.

“We follow his [Sankardeva’s] path. For us, he is like a guru. It is strange that Gaurav Gogoi can go. Others can go. Only Rahul Gandhi cannot go. I will go when I get an opportunity,” Mr. Gandhi was heard saying in the video, hoping to visit the shrine another day.

Further tension awaited the yatris later in the day, as Mr. Gandhi was barred from holding a street-corner meeting and padayatra in Morigaon district. In a letter to the district Congress unit, District Commissioner Devashis Sarma said the authorities apprehend anti-social activities as the yatra and the Ram Lalla Pran Pratishtha would happen simultaneously.

“This negates all earlier permissions accorded by the district administration for holding any public meeting/padayatra in Morigaon district in connection with the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra on January 22,” the letter said.

The police cited Mr Gandhi’s Z+ security for the advice to avoid unscheduled stoppages by Mr. Gandhi and his entourage. Taking to X, the State’s Director-General of Police, G.P. Singh advised the Congress leader not to leave the vehicle without advance intimation to the local administration and police.

On Sunday, the party had claimed that Mr. Ramesh’s car and mediapersons accompanying the party’s yatra were attacked by BJP workers in Assam’s Sonitpur district. 

The yatra later entered Meghalaya, where Mr. Gandhi said his party decided to start the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra from Manipur to send a message to the rest of the country about the pain of the people of the State “neglected” by New Delhi.

Addressing a rally in Meghalaya’s Nongpoh in the evening, he said the roadshow had to be launched because the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP has destroyed the idea of Manipur.

“The politics of hatred and violence have torn the State apart, causing hundreds of deaths and thousands of people to lose their property. It’s a complete tragedy! We wanted to send a message to the rest of India,” Mr Gandhi said.

“It is astonishing to me that the Prime Minister of India has not visited Manipur yet. Is Manipur not an Indian State? Are the people of Manipur not part of India? If the PM wants to stop the violence in Manipur, he can do it in three days. The truth is, he is not interested in putting an end to the violence in Manipur,” he said.

The Congress leader said he embarked upon the Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir in 2023 because the BJP and RSS were attacking the foundations of the country.

“The idea that all religions should live harmoniously in India and that all communities, languages, and traditions should be respected was under attack. To protect the idea of India, we walked from the sea to the mountains of Kashmir. We listened to the voices of farmers, labourers, and young people,” he said.

(With inputs from PTI)

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