With the Red Fort as a backdrop, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who led the Bharat Jodo Yatra into the Capital Saturday, attacked the BJP, accusing it of “relentlessly spreading fear and hatred” across the country to “divert” attention from people being “crippled economically”.
Claiming that TV channels are “controlled by powers who want to spread hatred,” he said “24 ghanta Hindu-Muslim, Hindu-Muslim” is aired.
The yatra, the biggest mobilization exercise by the Congress in decades, hit a nine-day year-end pause as it reached the Red Fort, covering 2800 km through nine states over a span of 108 daysfrom the coast of Kanyakumari.
It has another 700-odd km to cover through Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.
Addressing a large gathering outside the historic fort, Rahul said: “Turn around and see, there’s a Jain mandir, a gurdwara, a mosque. This is Hindustani. But this is not a new thing. This has been the country’s truth for centuries. People live with each other in harmony.”
He said he can still make peace with the fact that TV channels “don’t show us”.
“But they spread hatred. 24 ghanta Hindu-Muslim, Hindu-Muslim. But hear it from me, I am walking from Kanyakaumari. I have met lakhs of people on the road. People of this country love each other, embrace each other. This country is one,” he said.
The BJP, he said, falsely projects itself as the custodian of the Hindu religion. “Where in the Hindu religion is it written that the weak and the marginalized should be crushed and killed? I have read the Gita, Upanishad. Nowhere have I read this. These scriptures talk about embracing each other. They are sowing fear in the minds of youth, women, small traders, farmers,” he said.
“Making a speech in Rajasthan I had said we will open stores of love in your market of hatred. Aapne laakhon dukan khol di hai (you have opened lakhs of stores),” he said to cheers from the crowd.
Rahul said the “Prime Minister and the BJP used thousands of crores to sully my image. But I did not utter a word. The entire media, WhatsApp, Facebook machinery were used to spread rumors against me. But I showed you the truth in a month. This is how truth works. One cannot suppress the truth. It has a tendency of coming out”.
While the jury is out on the final outcome of the yatra, which will culminate with the unfurling of the Tricolor in Srinagar, Rahul suggested that he is certain that it has helped correct his image as a leadermaking an implicit admission that his “rebranding” was one of his objectives.
The yatra, he said, has helped him “realize” that “hatred” has not really consumed the country.
“When I started walking from Kanyakumari, I thought that hatred had spread to every corner of the country. But that is far from the truth. This is something the television media wants us to believe but that is not the reality,” he said.
“In reality, people live together in harmony, people embrace each other. They are not at each other’s throats as the TV shows us,” he said.
During the day, as the yatra crossed over from Haryana through the Badarpur border, Rahul was joined by him mother Sonia Gandhi, sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadraher husband Robert Vadra and their children.
Thousands of Congress workers and supporters marched along as the yatra made its way through the city. At one point, actor Kamal Haasan also joined Rahul. Later, Haasan delivered a short speech at Red Fort, along with Rahul and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge.
Kharge claimed the BJP government is rattled due to the yatra. “They are trying to use Covid as an excuse to halt the yatra. The PM got the Health Minister to publicize that Covid is spreading across the country. The PM wears masks inside Parliament, but was not spotted wearing a mask while attending a wedding recently… Come what may, the yatra will continue,” he said.
Rahul mentioned the border crisis with China to target the government. “China has taken up 2000 sq km of our land. The Prime Minister says no one entered Indian territory. Then why have the two countries held 21 rounds of talks?” he said.
He devoted a large part of his speech to the “relentless streaming of hatred” by TV channels.
“Many press people ask me: Don’t you feel cold? Why don’t they ask this to the farmers, workers, poor children of this country. They say Rahul walked 2800 km, but that is no big deal. The entire country walks. “Maybe a farmer walks 10,000 to 20,000 km in his lifetime,” he said.
Kamal Haasan said he will hit the streets “whenever the Constitution is attacked”. On the implications of this move on his political career, Haasan said, “My political career started because of the country, not because of me. This is the time when the country needs you. Bharat todne ki madad mat karo, Bharat jodne ki madad karo (don’t help the attempt to break Bharat, help in joining Bharat),” he said, adding that “this yatra, according to me, has just begun.”
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