Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday unfurled the national flag at the historic clock tower of Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar as part of the Kanyakumari-Kashmir ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ and said a “promise” made to India has been fulfilled.
Gandhi described the yatra as the deepest and beautiful experience of his life.
The security for the 10-minute event was at its peak as all roads in a one-kilometre radius leading to the chowk, which holds symbolic importance for the city, were sealed off from Saturday night and no vehicular movement was allowed.
Barricades were set up and concertina wires installed at all entry points with a heavy deployment of security personnel, while shops, business establishments and the weekly flea market were closed as part of the security exercise.
Gandhi, along with his sister and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, party leaders and workers, resumed the final lap of the yatra in Jammu and Kashmir from Srinagar’s Pantha Chowk around 10:45 am.
Those part of the march walked for about eight kilometres to Sonwar raising slogans such as “Jodo Jodo Bharat Jodo”, and along the way, were cheered and greeted by locals.
Within a multi-layer security ring, Gandhi, in a white T-shirt which he has sported for most of the over 4,000-kilometre yatra from India’s southern tip, waved at people as participants, including a large number of women, carrying the tricolour and Congress flags, moved towards Sonwar.
After reaching their destination, Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and other party leaders drove to the party’s headquarters at M A Road here. Later, they headed to Lal Chowk, where the former Congress president unfurled the national flag.
“By hoisting the tricolour at Lal Chowk, the promise made to India was fulfilled today. Hate will lose, love will always win. There will be a new dawn of hopes in India,” Gandhi tweeted in Hindi after the event.
Later at the post yatra presser, Gandhi said he got to learn and understand a lot.
I met lakhs of people, talked to them. I do not have words to make you understand. The aim of the yatra was to unite India, it was against hate and violence being spread across the country. We have had a tremendous response. In fact, no one expected to get such a love-filled response. We got to see the resilience and strength of the people of India directly, Gandhi said.
Gandhi described the yatra as the deepest and most beautiful experience of his life.
For me personally, this has been a very good experience. I can say it has been the deepest and most beautiful experience of my life, he said, expressing gratitude to the countrymen, the media, the Bharat Yatris, and the security forces personnel.
The yatra, which was launched on September 7 last year in Kanyakumari, has traversed 12 states and two Union territories. It will culminate with the hoisting of the national flag at the Congress office here on Monday.
The participants of the foot march will halt for the night at Nehru Park here.
On Monday, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge will unfurl the national flag and unveil a Bharat Jodo Yatra memorial at the PCC headquarters here.
Later, a public rally will also be held at SK Stadium for which 23 opposition political parties have been invited by the Congress.
Earlier in the day, Congress general secretary, communications, Jairam Ramesh on Twitter said the flag unfurling was planned for Monday but had to be done a day earlier.
“@RahulGandhi was supposed to unfurl national flag on Jan 30th in PCC office, since permission to do so elsewhere wasn’t given. Last evening, state administration allowed him to do so in Lal Chowk, but under condition that it should be done today on 29th at end of #BharatJodoYatra,” Ramesh tweeted.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra has traversed through Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir.
On Friday, the yatra was cancelled for the day in Anantnag district after the party alleged security lapse, saying police arrangements by the Jammu and Kashmir administration “completely collapsed”.
The administration had said pressure on security resources due to the size of the crowd, larger than planned, may have created an impression of lack of security arrangements during the Gandhi-led march.
It resumed in Pulwama district’s Awantipora on Saturday and Gandhi was joined by PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, her daughter Iltija Mufti and a large number of workers in the march. Priyanka Gandhi also joined her brother in the yatra later.
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