Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval cannot understand the pain inflicted by violence, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said in Srinagar on Monday, at the conclusion of the 135-day-long Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Recounting incidents from the past, when violence consumed the lives of his grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi, Mr. Gandhi said, “Those who stoke violence won’t understand the pain it inflicts, nor will those who have not suffered it. PM Modi, Amit Shah and Ajit Doval can’t understand the pain inflicted by violence but I can relate to the families of the Pulwama attack victims, with the hundreds of families of Kashmiris and of the security forces.” He said one of the goals of the yatra was to put an end to violence.
Refusing an umbrella in spite of the heavy snowfall, Mr. Gandhi, who wore a Kashmiri pheran (coat) to protect himself from the biting cold, said he was warned of grenade attacks during the Kashmir leg of the yatra by security agencies but people gave him love and hugs.
Prominent Opposition leaders, including former Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti (PDP), Omar Abdullah (NC), CPI general secretary D. Raja, Rajya Sabha member T. Siva (DMK), Lok Sabha member N.K. Premachandran (RSP) and VCK chief T. Thirumavalavan, attended the rally. Only 8 Opposition parties, of the 23 invited, participated.
On the security threat to him, Mr. Gandhi said, “I chose to give a chance to those who wanted to turn the colour of my white T-shirt red. Instead, people of Kashmir came to me with affection and love, with tears in their eyes. People, young and old, accepted me and hugged me”.
Recalling how the death of a family member was conveyed to him over the phone, Mr. Gandhi also made an appeal to put an end to violence in Kashmir. “The yatra’s goal in Kashmir is also to put an end to the phone calls made to the families of victims of violence. No mother, child or sister should receive such calls,” he said.
Mr. Gandhi said he felt at home in Kashmir, where kashmiriyat, the Hindu idea of shoonyata (selflessness) and the Islamic idea of fanaa (destruction of the self) are linked. “We have similar examples of kashmiriyat in the other parts of the country with different names,” he added.
He reiterated that the yatra was meant for the people of the country and was an attempt to stand up against the ideology that is “out to break the foundations of this country”. “If we stand with love and not hate, we will be successful. The BJP has shown us a way of living and we showed India’s way of living, steeped in love, diversity, harmony and brotherhood,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Gandhi hoisted the Tricolour at the yatra camp site in Panthachowk, and Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge did the same at the party office.
The Congress was forced to cut short the closing ceremony because of heavy snowfall but the weather offered the Gandhi siblings a chance for a playful snowball fight at the Panthachowk campsite.
The snowfall that started on Sunday night and continued on Monday resulted in the closure of roads in the Valley. Sources said many Opposition leaders, travelling by air, could not make it to the venue due to the cancellations at the Srinagar airport.
Meanwhile, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi, National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah, and Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti, also spoke on the occasion.
Mr. Kharge praised the people of Kashmir for their warm response and said they were “liberal and accommodative”. “Speaking in snow is a unique experience for us. People have braved it all during the yatra. Rahul has proven that he can join people from Kanyakumari to Kashmir,” he said.
Ms. Gandhi said her brother walked for four to five months from Kanyakumari and managed to have people come out on their own and join him. “This is because there still remains a passion in this country — for the county, for this land, for its diversity — that resides in the hearts of all Indians,” she said.
Ms. Gandhi said her brother had a unique feeling of home in Kashmir. “He said his family members are waiting for him. They come and hug him with tears in their eyes and their pain and emotions are entering his own heart,” she said.
Ms. Mufti made a passionate appeal to Mr. Gandhi to address Kashmir’s problems. “Rahul, you said you have come to Kashmir, your home. It’s your home. I hope what the Godse ideology snatched from J&K, from this nation, will be restored. Gandhi ji said he can see a ray of hope in J&K. Today, the nation can see a ray of hope in Rahul Gandhi,” she said.
Terming the yatra “successful”, Mr. Abdullah said, “The nation needed this. It has proven that there are people... who want harmony and want to live in peace and love with each other, something which the BJP can’t give.”