HomeWorld NewsA ‘march to unite India’, led by Congress, reaches half-way mark |...

A ‘march to unite India’, led by Congress, reaches half-way mark | Politics Information | NEWSRUX

Mandya, India – A nationwide “unity march” led by India’s fundamental opposition chief Rahul Gandhi has reached its eightieth day and is at the moment winding by the streets of Madhya Pradesh state in central India.

The “Bharat Jodo Yatra” (or Unite India March) began from Kanyakumari, the southernmost level of India in Tamil Nadu state on September 7. It should cowl 3,500 kilometres (2,175 miles) to achieve Indian-administered Kashmir within the north – fully on foot – within the subsequent 70 days.

Gandhi is the 52-year-old scion of the Nehru-Gandhi household – his father Rajiv Gandhi, grandmother Indira Gandhi and great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru had all been India’s prime ministers. Gandhi is a parliamentarian and has served because the president of the Indian Nationwide Congress social gathering.

Because the “unity march” started in early September, Gandhi has been strolling a median of 20km (12 miles) each day, accompanied by greater than 100 fellow travellers and hundreds of individuals becoming a member of the march when it reaches their neighbourhoods.

In Madhya Pradesh, Gandhi was joined by his sister Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, who’s now one of many fundamental campaigners of the Congress social gathering.

A number of activists, lecturers and actors have walked with him to date within the march that has already traversed the 4 southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and the western Maharashtra state earlier than coming into Madhya Pradesh final week.

Points being raised on the march

After India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi got here to energy in 2014, Gandhi has been attacking the ruling Bharatiya Janata Get together (BJP) and its ideological fountainhead, the secretive far-right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which counts Modi amongst hundreds of thousands of its lifetime members.

Since its formation in 1925 alongside the traces of the fascist teams in Europe, the RSS – and BJP as its political wing – have been pursuing a communal agenda that goals to rework a constitutionally secular India into an ethnic Hindu state. Critics worry India’s 200 million Muslims will likely be lowered to second-class residents, and have their political and human rights drastically curtailed.

Gandhi has been elevating these points all through the march. “The aim of this march is to face in opposition to the hate and violence unfold by the BJP and RSS,” he stated in his first speech after coming into the BJP-ruled Karnataka state, thought-about by many as a “Hindutva” or Hindu supremacy laboratory within the south.

“The march will go from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. It won’t cease – rain, warmth, chilly, storms, nothing … It should go like a river. And you’ll not see hate or violence on this march, solely love and brotherhood. That is the historical past of India and that is the DNA of India,” he stated.

The Congress chief has additionally been elevating different points, together with unemployment and worth rise, as he accuses the BJP of serving to a couple of billionaires get richer whereas a big majority of Indians stays poor.

“Unemployment is rising by the day … Individuals of India and Karnataka are getting crushed between unemployment and worth rise,” he stated.

Political specialists say the mammoth march is geared toward rejuvenating the Congress as electoral debacles and infighting hang-out the social gathering. Throughout the “unity march”, the social gathering elected veteran parliamentarian Mallikarjun Kharge as its president, a major departure from the Gandhis heading the social gathering.

Specialists say the march is an experiment to rebrand Gandhi as the principle face of the opposition earlier than the final elections due in the summertime of 2024.

‘Surreal to stroll with him’

Final month, Gandhi was in Mandya, a small city in Karnataka about 100km (62 miles) from Bengaluru, India’s Silicon Valley. The freeway was lined with vibrant banners and posters as counters for consuming water and snacks greeted marchers and residents of the sugarcane-growing area.

Gandhi began the stroll at about 6:30am native time and lined a lot of the space earlier than 11am, after which he and his group had a number of conferences with members of the civil society. In a kind of conferences, Gandhi met Kavitha and Indira Lankesh.

Kavitha is the youthful sister of murdered journalist Gauri Lankesh whereas Indira is their mom. Gauri was gunned down in 2017 outdoors her Bengaluru residence allegedly by members of a far-right Hindu group.

The Editors Guild of India had referred to as Gauri’s killing “an ominous portent for dissent in democracy and a brutal assault on the liberty of the press”.

After Kavitha and Indira met Gandhi, they accompanied him on his march stroll for a while.

“It was surreal for me to stroll with him and discuss concerning the demise of a member of the family. At one stage we had been amongst a whole lot of individuals and but we had this deeply private dialog. We spoke about how he felt concerning the deaths in his household – father, grandmother and I spoke about Gauri. He took care of my mom whereas we walked and the dialog was heartfelt. That ethos has virtually disappeared from our narrative these days,” Kavitha instructed Al Jazeera.

Police frisk supporters of India's main opposition Congress party as they arrive to attend a rally addressed by the party's leader Rahul Gandhi during his ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India March) in Ballari in the state of Karnataka, India, October 15, 2022. REUTERS/Manoj Kumar
Police frisk individuals as they arrive to attend the march in Ballari, Karnataka [File: Manoj Kumar/Reuters]

Kavitha’s sentiments have been echoed by many who’ve marched with Gandhi within the final three months.

On the identical day, the Congress politician additionally met some activists opposing the revision of textbooks being taught in Karnataka authorities colleges in an effort to propagate the Hindutva agenda, a undertaking students discuss with as “saffronisation” as a result of saffron is the defining color of the Hindu proper.

At a relaxation cease in Mandya, sugarcane juice was distributed to consolation the marchers within the scorching warmth. A bunch of kids, wearing conventional costumes, waited to fulfill Gandhi.

Amongst them was Rifah Taskeen, a 12-year-old Muslim woman carrying the hijab. Taskeen holds a world report for driving greater than 17 sorts of automobiles earlier than she turned 10. Her doting father talked concerning the adulation his household obtained from the Gandhis. “We will’t do a lot about what is going on round us. However we hope issues will change, for the sake of our kids,” Tajuddin instructed Al Jazeera.

Mukeshraj Shah, hailing from Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh the place the march at the moment is, echoed the sentiment. “We have to fear about farmers, unemployment and we now have to convey the sensation of camaraderie amongst all communities again,” he stated.

‘Protected house for Muslims’

A number of Hindu right-wing teams function in Karnataka, the place the BJP authorities has handed a sequence of legal guidelines and orders banning the carrying of hijab in public colleges or in opposition to alleged “compelled conversions”. Activists say this type of “institutionalised communalism” has additional marginalised the Muslims and incidents of hate and violence have elevated.

“First, they get legitimacy in public after which it goes to the federal government meeting for validation. We as civil society haven’t responded sufficient and that’s their success,” Aishwarya Ravikumar of the Individuals’s Union of Civil Liberties, instructed Al Jazeera.

Regardless of launching campaigns comparable to Say No to Hate, advocate Vinay Srinivasa feels the state of affairs in Karnataka has solely worsened. “Polarisation is pushed by a large institutional framework. The RSS is helped by a big part of the media. School rooms are polarised, the society is deeply poisoned,” he stated.

Given this case Srinivasa says the “India unity march” has assumed a deeper significance. “We don’t know the way it will handle the basis reason behind polarisation. However the Congress has made it a protected house for Muslim males and significantly ladies to have their identification and take part in public. Nevertheless, we should additionally suppose how unhealthy the instances are, that we now have to laud a political train for creating this house,” he stated.

It’s an analogue ‘yatra’ (march) within the age of social media.

by Krishna Prasad, ex-Editor, Outlook journal

Senior Congress chief Jairam Ramesh instructed Al Jazeera the march is “not going to all of a sudden remodel the communal scene” in India.

“It’s an ideological battle. The vital factor is, for the primary time, the Congress is enjoying cricket on the pitch that it has ready. Till now we had been enjoying on a pitch that was doctored by the BJP,” he stated.

“For the primary time, we now have set the narrative and agenda – that’s the distinction. The actual problem will likely be to construct on the momentum that’s created by the yatra (march).”

‘Analogue’ march in a digital age

Ramesh denied the social gathering was making an attempt for electoral positive aspects or rebranding Gandhi by the march. When requested why the march is restricted to 12 of 29 Indian states, Ramesh stated components comparable to safety, distance and logistics needed to be thought-about.

“Many extra Bharat Jodo Yatras are being deliberate in several states comparable to Assam, Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar,” he stated, including that finance was the social gathering’s greatest problem.

“We now have to search out the cash to feed 3,000 individuals each day – breakfast, lunch and dinner … We now have to generate the sources,” he stated.

Author and journalist Girish Kuber stated the march has created good optics however the social gathering mechanism to capitalise on the goodwill is missing.

“The leaders are additionally uncertain about easy methods to undertaking it. Is it for revival of the social gathering, for projecting Rahul Gandhi as a future chief? Whether or not it can assist them get votes is tough to say,” he instructed Al Jazeera.

Krishna Prasad, the previous editor of Outlook journal, questioned whether or not, in an age of instantaneous social media the place public reminiscence is brief, if individuals will keep in mind the march as soon as it crosses their state.

“It’s an analogue ‘yatra’ within the age of social media,” he instructed Al Jazeera.

Nonetheless, Prasad felt the Congress march is a much-needed try at uniting India.

“Whether or not this effort will lead to any political or electoral positive aspects is a unique query. A very powerful query this march has raised is that this: is there a marketplace for goodness? At the moment, India has turn into a serious marketplace for toxicity. Will this analogue ‘yatra’ within the age of social media make goodness interesting to individuals?”

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