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Amid tight security Rahul Gandhi hoists tricolour at Lal Chowk

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Says, nobody is happy in J&K and Ladakh; insists, restoration of democratic process and statehood is imperative fundamental right of the people here

Photo-Javed Khan/Kashmir Images

Srinagar: 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.

The security for the 10-minute event was at its peak as all roads in a one-kilometre radius leading to the city centre, 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 yatris, including a large number of women, carrying the tricolour and Congress flags, moved towards Sonwar.

After reaching their destination, Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and other senior 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.

The Yatra, which was launched on September 07 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.

Yatris of the foot-march will halt for the night at the Nehru Park here.

On Monday, a public rally will also be held at the SK Stadium for which 23 opposition political parties have been invited by the Congress.

Earlier in the day, All India Congress Committee general secretary, in-charge 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 the national flag on Jan 30th in the PCC office, since permission to do so elsewhere wasn’t given. Last evening, the state administration allowed him to do so in Lal Chowk, but under the condition that it should be done today on 29th at end of #BharatJodoYatra,” Ramesh tweeted.

Later, addressing media persons, Gandhi said that there has been no change in the security situation in Jammu & Kashmir given the targeted killings and bomb blasts here, adding, he was not happy at what he saw in Jammu and Kashmir.

“In fact, I was saddened when I walked through J&K as nobody is happy here and Ladakh as well.”

He added restoration of democratic process and statehood is imperative and the fundamental right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Gandhi, who was flanked by Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh, in-charge J&K Rajni Patil, JKPCC president, Vikar Rasool Wani, Raman Bhalla, Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Tariq Hameed Karra, Tara Chand and others, said the motive behind the Yatra was to spread love amid hatred being spread by the BJP and the RSS across the country.

“The Yatra has culminated in Srinagar and the main function will be held tomorrow. I got a lot to experience through this Yatra; I met lakhs of people, talked to them, I have no words to describe my journey as I got a good response from the people across India, including J&K. It was the best experience of my life,” he said.

Gandhi said during the Yatra people raised two important issues which included unemployment and price hike.

To a query during the press conference on the cold shoulder offered to his Yatra by Opposition leaders like TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, he said it is not correct to say the Opposition is fragmented.

“It is true that there are differences among the opposition and discussions take place but the opposition will fight together this battle of ideologies in which on one side there is the BJP and RSS and on the other side are forces opposing them,” he said.

Gandhi said Yatra may have traversed the country from South to North but its impact is countrywide.

“The BJP and RSS are attacking the institutional framework of this country. Whether it is Parliament, assemblies, judiciary, media. All institutions are being attacked and captured by the BJP. What you have seen in different parts of the country and Jammu and Kashmir are the result of that assault on the institutional framework,” he said.

Summing up the Yatra, which will culminate on Monday with him hoisting the tricolour at a Congress office here, Gandhi said this march is no longer a Congress show but has “become a movement for the ‘aam janta’ (common people).”

He said the Bharat Jodo Yatra envisages to provide to people an alternative vision of brotherhood to BJP and RSS’ “politics of hate and arrogance”.

“This Yatra has given an alternative to the people of this country. On one side is the vision to crush others while ours is the vision of embracing and taking people together,” he said.

He said the march will have a tremendous effect on the politics of this country. “I cannot tell what exactly will be the effect but I can tell that this Yatra is not over. It is a first step towards a new beginning,” he said.

Gandhi also asked the government to deal with China firmly and make it clear that “we are not going to tolerate them sitting on our land.”

Gandhi said that the approach that the government was following “by completely denying” that the Chinese have “taken our land” is extremely dangerous as it would give them the confidence to do even “more aggressive things”.

“I think the way to deal with these Chinese is to deal with them firmly and to be very clear that they are sitting on our land and it is not something we are going to tolerate.

“The Prime Minister of India is the only person in the country who is under the impression that the Chinese have not taken any land from India. I recently met some ex-army people, even a delegation from Ladakh which clearly said that 2000 square kilometres of our Indian territory have been taken over by the Chinese,” Gandhi said.

They also said that many of the patrolling points that used to be in Indian territory are now firmly in Chinese hands, he said.

His remarks come a day after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said some people deliberately spread wrong news about the China issue, knowing it is not true, for politics and by talking about some land, which was taken by China in 1962, they give the impression this happened recently – comments that are viewed as a dig at Gandhi.


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