One of the significant takeaways from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir was a large number of locals in south Kashmir showing up with Tricolours, according to government officials. The voluntary response by locals during the last leg of the yatra that passed through militancy-affected districts of Pulwama and Anantnag on January 27 and 28 has surprised many.
Hundreds of people who included onlookers and supporters lined up along the highway the yatra passed.
A senior Congress leader, who walked along with Mr. Gandhi during the Jammu to Srinagar leg, confirmed to The Hindu that people in south Kashmir areas such as Anantnag joined the march with the Indian flag. “It’s a huge breakthrough,” he said.
Asked if these people were Congress members, he answered by referring to them as “a mixed group”.
In 2021, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir had made it compulsory to hoist the national flag in all government schools and government offices.
The thrust on visibility of national flags in public places has been part of the government’s agenda after the special status of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution was read down by the Parliament in August 2019. “People carrying the national flag in south Kashmir during Bharat Jodo Yatra was spontaneous gesture. No one forced them. It could be due to resentment against the ruling party at the Centre, but the development is unprecedented,” said a government source. On January 27, the march near Anantnag was joined by National Conference leader Omar Abdullah. Many people in the crowd were also NC workers and supporters, a source said.
After the yatra entered the Kashmir Valley from Jammu near Khanbal on January 27, a 11-km walk had to be cancelled due to inadequate security arrangement, the Congress had said.
On January 28, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti joined Mr. Gandhi’s march from Awantipora.
The 136-day yatra that started from Kanniyakumari in Tamil Nadu on September 7, 2022 culminated in Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar on January 30. More than 60 containers were part of the convoy.