`Sadbhavana Yatra' reaches Jaipur

JAIPUR JUNE 26. A "Sadbhavana Yatra'' (voyage of harmony) led by the film actor and Congress MP, Sunil Dutt, arrived here today with a call to strengthen the values of secularism and promoting tolerance to allow co-existence of various communities in the country. The participants in the journey were given a rousing welcome at various places.

The Yatra, organised under the aegis of newly-launched "Sadbhavana Ke Sipahi'' (soldiers for harmony), will cross five districts in Rajasthan -- Alwar, Dausa, Jaipur, Tonk and Ajmer. A large number of people from all walks of life have joined the venture, claimed to be devoid of any political orientation.

``The voyage is covering the entire country with a social commitment. There is no politics involved in it,'' Mr. Dutt told mediapersons at a "Meet the Press'' programme in the Pink City Press Club here. He said the Yatra had been launched in the wake of rising communal polarisation in society following the Gujarat carnage last year.

Mr. Dutt said the bloodbath in Gujarat had matched the Partition riots in its intensity. "I am myself a victim of Partition. I know how painful it is to lose one's family and get uprooted,'' he said in a choked voice and asserted that communalism and hatred on religious ground would only weaken the country internally.

He denied that "Sadbhavana Ke Sipahi'' had been floated by the Congress to counter the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and said his objective was not to challenge any individual or organisation but to promote peace and harmony so as to create a congenial atmosphere in which communal bodies would find it impossible to thrive.

``Aggression on the communal front cannot be thwarted by confrontation. The answer lies in making the people realise the significance of harmony and brotherhood,'' Mr. Dutt, who had undertaken a similar Yatra from Mumbai to Amritsar in 1987 during the peak of terrorism in Punjab, said. He pointed out that the "cultural balance'' between Hindus and Muslims was the biggest asset with which harmony could be promoted.

Asked about his views on the Ayodhya imbroglio, Mr. Dutt said if construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya could solve poverty, unemployment, discrimination, social tensions and a host of other problems, he would be the "first person to lay its foundation stone''. He also said the message of his journey could nullify the impact of divisive campaigns such as Trishul Diksha.

The Sadbhavana Yatra wound its way through the streets of the Pink City and culminated in Adarsh Nagar where Mr. Dutt, the State convenor, Rajiv Arora, and others addressed a public meeting. Mr. Dutt prayed for communal amity at the holy places of various religions on the way.

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