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Congress kicks off yatra from Manipur; Rahul attacks Modi

By, Guwahati
Jan 15, 2024 01:32 AM IST

Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday kickstarted the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra from Thoubal district in ethnic strife-torn Manipur.

Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday kickstarted the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra from Thoubal district in ethnic strife-torn Manipur with a promise to bring “peace and harmony” back in the northeastern state, saying his east-to-west march cutting across 15 states will highlight the social, economic and political injustices prevailing in the country.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi shakes hands with people as he commences the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Manipur on Sunday. (PTI)
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi shakes hands with people as he commences the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Manipur on Sunday. (PTI)

Addressing a public meeting at a private ground in Khongjom before embarking on the yatra, Gandhi said the situation in Manipur suggests that perhaps for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the northeastern state is not a part of India.

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“I had come to Manipur on June 29 last year and what I saw and heard then, I had never heard or seen. I have been in politics since 2004. But it was the first time I saw a collapse of governance in a state. Manipur is now divided with hatred spread in every corner,” Gandhi said.

Also read- ‘We want to listen to your Mann ki Baat’: Rahul Gandhi at Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra

“Lakhs were affected, and people got killed in front of family members. But the Prime Minister hasn’t visited Manipur to erase your tears, to embrace you. Maybe for him, the BJP and the RSS, Manipur is not a part of India, and your pain is not his pain,” he added.

Manipur has lost what it holds precious because of the politics of hatred of the BJP-RSS, the Wayanad lawmaker said, adding that the Congress “will bring back the harmony, peace and affection that the state has always been known for.”

“We are here to listen to you, share your pain, and present a new vision of India that is one of harmony and equity,” the former Congress president said.

“We don’t want to tell you about our ‘mann ki baat’ but to hear about your ‘mann ki baat’,” he said in an apparent dig at PM Modi and his monthly radio show, Mann Ki Baat. “We want to know about your pain. We want to share a vision of brotherhood and harmony.”

In the afternoon, Gandhi arrived in Imphal on a chartered flight from Delhi with many senior Congress leaders, after a delayed takeoff owing to bad weather in the national capital. The former party chief paid floral tributes at the Khongjom War Memorial, built in the memory of the slain heroes of the Anglo-Manipur War of 1891, from where the yatra started.

The yatra, a follow-up of the South-to-North Bharat Jodo Yatra undertaken by Gandhi in 2022, will cover 6,713 km, straddling 100 Lok Sabha constituencies and 337 assembly segments and covering 110 districts across 15 states before concluding in Mumbai on March 20 after 67 days.

“We got very good response during our Bharat Jodo Yatra. People wanted that such a journey should be undertaken from East to West like the one done from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. Since elections are near and it would take time, we decided that it will be a hybrid yatra, both by bus and on foot,” Gandhi said.

The aim of the yatra is to ensure justice to the people as they are facing a period of “great injustice” in the country, he said. “The questions arose — why the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra. It is because we are going through a period of great injustice in India. It is of all kinds, social, political and economic.”

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, who flagged off the yatra along with Gandhi, also took a swipe at Modi for not visiting the ethnic violence-hit Manipur.

“Ours is a long journey... Modi comes to Manipur to seek votes, but when people of the state are in trouble, he is vacationing on the beaches and doing religious tasks in the name of Ram,” Kharge said in his address, reminding how Rahul Gandhi visited the state in June last year.

Kharge was apparently referring to the recent visit of PM Modi to picturesque Lakshadweep and the upcoming consecration ceremony at the grand Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Also read- ‘Mukh mein Ram, bagal mein choori’: Kharge's attack on PM amid launch of Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Manipur

The yatra is being undertaken to “save the Constitution and democracy, and fight the fascist forces”, Kharge added.

Manipur has been in the throes of ethnic violence since early May last year as clashes erupted between the Meiteis, the most populous community in the state, and the tribal Kuki-Zo community, killing nearly 200 people. Due to the violence, over 50,000 people have fled their homes in Manipur.

Before the start of the yatra, which comes months before the crucial Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April-May this year, several senior Congress leaders and party workers gathered for the public meeting held a minute’s silence for the people killed in the ethnic violence in Manipur.

Besides top party leaders, Lok Sabha lawmaker Danish Ali, who was recently suspended from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) over “anti-party” activities, also attended the launch of the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra. “I have decided to join him (Rahul Gandhi) in this yatra because I feel I would be failing in my duty as a politician and a social worker if I did not join the biggest drive for unity and justice,” Ali posted on ‘X’. “I pray for the success of this yatra and for the future of my country.”

In the evening, the yatra stopped for a break at Koirengi Bazar at Imphal, around 40 km away. Gandhi and others will halt for the night at Koujengleima sports association football ground at Sekmai before starting the journey on Monday morning.

The BJP, meanwhile, took a swipe at Gandhi and the Congress’s yatra, with Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh asking whether it is time for politics by holding rallies and wondering also wondered if the senior Congress leader came to the northeastern state to disturb the improving situation.

“Given the current situation in the state, is it a time for politics by holding a rally? It is the time to protect lives and properties, and provide consolation,” Singh told reporters in Imphal.

Also read- ‘Until I get…’: Rahul Gandhi as Kharge launches ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra’ logo, tagline

Alleging that the Congress’s yatra was actually “Bharat Todo” (Break India) and not “Bharat Jodo” (Unite India), the chief minister added: “The situation is becoming better and we doubt if he (Gandhi) has come to mess with it. Whenever he comes, there is a problem. This time, Manipur is on alert. If he comes, we have to be on alert so that he does not mess with things.”

BJP spokesperson termed the Congress yatra a “rebranding and repackaging” procession for Rahul Gandhi.

“This is not ‘Nyay Yatra’ but it is Rahul Gandhi’s 15th relaunch yatra. After the defeat in recent elections, it is a rebranding and repackaging yatra for Rahul, and after the Congress has lost its relevance in the INDIA bloc, it is a repositioning Yatra for the Congress. After the last Yatra, we have seen that they have lost 8 out of 11 elections,” Poonawalla was quoted as saying by ANI.

(With agency inputs)

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Utpal is a Senior Assistant Editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states of North-East India and heads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.

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