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J&K going through difficult phase, Cong wants early restoration of statehood: Rahul Gandhi

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‘We have come to listen and understand the people, their pain …’

Jammu: Alleging that the BJP has created a wedge between the two regions of Jammu and Kashmir, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said his party wants early restoration of statehood and assembly polls in the Union territory.

He said the Congress’ position on Article 370 is the same as was declared by the Congress working committee after the constitutional provision was revoked by the BJP-led government in August 2019.

Two days after the Centre’s move, the Congress working committee had deplored the “unilateral, brazen and totally undemocratic” manner in which provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution were abrogated and the state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union territories.

The Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra, which started from Kanyakumari on September 07 last year, is currently in Jammu and Kashmir for its final phase.

On not extending an invitation to Democratic Azad Party chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad to join the Yatra and former minister Lal Singh not being given a chair on the stage to mark the entry of the march into J&K, Gandhi said, “Singh supported the Yatra and we appreciate his sentiment. The people of Ghulam Nabi Azad’s party were on our stage. Ninety percent of them are already in the Congress. I think there is only Ghulam Nabi Azad-ji on that side.”

“My respects to Ghulam Nabi-ji and I apologise for any hurt that we may have caused either to Lal Singh-ji or Ghulam Nabi Azad-ji,” he added.

Among various delegations that met him during the march, Gandhi said migrant Kashmiri Pandits clearly told him that they were being used politically and asked him to raise their issues in Parliament.

“The Kashmiri Pandits told me that the BJP was using them as a political weapon and forcibly sending them to Kashmir where they face the threat of targeted killings. They said whatever good had happened to them was done during the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government,” he said.

The Congress leader said the main aim of the foot march was to listen to the people and amplify what was in their hearts.

“We love all of you and respect you, and feel that J&K is going through a difficult phase. BJP has created a wedge which is harming both (Kashmir and Jammu regions) and this gap needs to be bridged. We want to open lakhs of shops selling love in J&K,” he said.

“We have come to listen and understand the people, their pain which is in their hearts and the discomfort. The youth are talking about unemployment, they see no future, there is no industry and farmers are not getting any support,” the former Congress president told reporters here.

He said the people need to maintain communal harmony, which is essential for taking the Union territory forward.

“Nothing is achieved by hatred or violence,” Gandhi said, adding that the Congress wants the restoration of statehood and assembly polls as soon as possible.

On whether he was satisfied with the security arrangements made by the government for the Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir, Gandhi said, “It is the responsibility of the government to protect the yatris, and I hope they do as good a job as they are capable of doing.”

Truth shines bright, has nasty habit of coming out: Rahul on BBC docu on Modi

Amid a row over the controversial BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the 2002 Gujarat riots, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said any kind of ban, oppression and frightening people are not going to stop the truth from coming out.

The government on Friday had directed social media platforms Twitter and YouTube to block links to the documentary titled “India: The Modi Question”.

The Ministry of External Affairs has criticised the documentary as a “propaganda piece” that lacks objectivity and reflects a colonial mindset.

Asked about the issue at a press conference during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Gandhi said, “If you read our scriptures, if you read Bhagavad Gita or you read the Upanishads, you will see in it, it is written that the truth cannot be hidden. The truth always comes out.”

“So, you can ban, you can suppress the press, you can control the institutions, you can use CBI, ED all the stuff, but, the truth is the truth. Truth shines bright. It has a nasty habit of coming out. So, no amount of banning, oppression and frightening people is going to stop the truth from coming out,” he said.

The Congress on Saturday had criticised the government for the “censorship” of the BBC documentary, asking why had then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee reminded Modi of ‘Raj Dharma’ after the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Law Minister Kiren Rijiju has slammed the controversial documentary, saying India’s image cannot be disgraced with “malicious campaigns”.

The Centre has told YouTube and Twitter to take down fresh links to the documentary if someone uploads or tweets them again, according to sources.

The MEA had condemned the BBC documentary, which has not been screened in India, alleging it was designed “to push a particular discredited narrative”.

Actor-politician Urmila Matondkar, other prominent people join Bharat Jodo Yatra in Jammu

Actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar joined Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra as it resumed from the garrison town of Nagrota on a cold Tuesday morning.

Matondkar, a popular Bollywood star of the 1990s, joined Gandhi shortly after the march started from near the army garrison around 8 am amid tight security, with Congress workers and supporters lined up on the road along the route to welcome them.

Matondkar (48) had resigned from the Congress in September 2019 after a short association of six months, and joined the Shiv Sena in 2020.

Dressed in a cream-coloured traditional Kashmir Pheran (loose gown) and beanie cap, Matondkar was interacting with Gandhi as they marched along.

Noted author Perumal Murugan and J&K Pradesh Congress Committee president Vikar Rasool Wani, his predecessor G A Mir and former minister Tariq Hamid Karra also joined them alongside hundreds of others carrying the tricolor in their hands.

The march is scheduled to make two night halts at Ramban and Banihal along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway before its culmination in Srinagar with a grand rally at the Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium on January 30.

A 65-member strong Ladakh delegation led by Ladakh Territorial Congress president Nawang Rigzin Jora joined Gandhi at the start of the Yatra and briefed him about the issues and concerns of their people, one of the delegation members said.

A 65-member strong Ladakh delegation led by Ladakh Territorial Congress president Nawang Rigzin Jora joined Gandhi at the start of the Yatra and briefed him about the issues and concerns of their people, one of the delegation members said.

A group of Kashmiri Pandit migrant women, wearing their traditional attire and carrying flower petals, were waiting outside the famous Kol-Kandoli temple to welcome Rahul Gandhi.

“We have been wandering in Jammu for the last three decades after our migration from Kashmir. We have come here to welcome Rahul Gandhi as he could help in our rehabilitation back into the Valley as it was Congress which worked for the community in the past by providing employment packages to our youth,” Geeta Koul told PTI.

She said the biggest issue for them is the rehabilitation of the community and the BJP has miserably “failed” in this mission and “ignored us”.

However, they could not perform the traditional welcome at that place and were later asked to meet Rahul Gandhi at his camping site in Jaggar Kotli.

After walking for over one-and-a-half hours, the Yatra made a stopover and resumed from Army gate Rehambal in Udhampur district amid a drizzle.

The Congress leader later wore a raincoat as the weather deteriorated further with the day’s march nearing completion.

Swaraj India party president Yogendra Yadav, Congress MLA from Gujaray Jignesh Mevani and two separate Congress delegations from Uttarakhand and Punjab also joined Rahul Gandhi.

Congress sources said the Uttarakhand delegation briefed Gandhi  about the Joshimath issue and rehabilitation of the affected families.

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