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Bharat Jodo Yatra Resumes, Kharge Requests Amit Shah to Ensure Full Security

Bharat Jodo Yatra Resumes, Kharge Requests Amit Shah to Ensure Full Security


Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Jan 28: The Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge has urged the union home minister Amit Shah to ensure adequate security arrangements for the on-going Bharat Jodo Yatra in Kashmir valley as the former party president Rahul Gandhi resumed the foot march on Saturday after a day’s break due to lapses in security arrangements on Friday.

Gandhi restarted the Yatra from Awantipora in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district. The Congress on Friday had alleged that police arrangements by the Union Territory’s administration “completely collapsed.” Refuting the Congress allegation, the Jammu and Kashmir 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 Rahul Gandhi-led march.

Mr. Gandhi was joined by PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, her daughter Iltija Mufti and a large number of workers from her party as the march traversed through Awantipora on Saturday. He is likely to be joined by his sister and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra later before the five-long month Yatra ends on January 30.

Stringent security arrangements were put in place for the yatra, with security forces sealing off all roads leading to its starting point. Only authorised vehicles and reporters were allowed to reach the venue. There was also a three-layered security ring around Gandhi as part of the heightened security measures.

The yatra was received by enthusiastic supporters at the Chursoo area of the south Kashmir district. Congress workers and supporters carrying the tricolour and the party’s flags turned up in large numbers to receive Gandhi.

The former Congress chief resumed his walk at 9:20 a.m. in his now-trademark white T-shirt, but wore a sleeveless jacket over it. Mr. Gandhi had to cancel his walk on Friday from the Qazigund area as security forces failed to manage the large crowd that had gathered on this side of the Banihal tunnel through which the leader entered the Kashmir Valley. Barely able to walk about 500 metres amidst jostling by the huge crowd, the yatra had to halt and Gandhi’s security team advised him not to go ahead. Mr. Gandhi then drove to the Khanabal area of Anantnag district where he stayed for the night.

Kharge’s letter seeking Amit Shah’s intervention said, “We are expecting a huge gathering to join the yatra over the next two days and also the function that will be held on January 30 at Srinagar. Many senior Congress leaders and leaders of other important political parties are attending the culmination function. I shall be grateful if you could personally intervene in this matter and advise the concerned officials to provide adequate security till the culmination of the yatra and the function on January 30 at Srinagar.” He said he was writing after the “unfortunate security lapse” during the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

On the advice of the security officials in charge of the security detail of Rahul Gandhi, the Yatra had to be suspended, Mr Kharge said. “We appreciate the Jammu and Kashmir Police and welcome their statement saying they will continue to ensure complete security till the culmination of the journey,” he said.

However, the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha also said, “You will appreciate the fact that a large crowd of common people has joined and walked in the Bharat Jodo Yatra every day. It is difficult for the organisers to tell exactly how many people are expected over the day, as it is a spontaneous gesture of the common people to join the yatra.”

The yatra is scheduled to reach Pantha Chowk in the outskirts of Srinagar later in the day, after a single stop near Birla School in Galandar area of Pampore. After a night’s halt there, the yatra would resume on Sunday morning from Pantha Chowk and will culminate near Nehru Park on Boulevard Road in the city. On Monday, Gandhi will unfurl the tricolour at the party headquarters at M A Road here, following which a public rally at SK Stadium here for which 23 opposition political parties have been invited.

The Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi which started in Kanyakumari on September 7 will culminate on January 30 in Srinagar after traversing through 12 states and two union territories. The 3500-km foot march is aimed at galvanising the Congress cadres across the country, but the party is claiming that the Yatra is not political and seeks to unite India in the wake of growing “hatred.”



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