Bharat Jodo Yatra: Rahul Gandhi Bats For J&K Statehood But Skips Article 370, Raises Issue Of Chinese Occupation

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said everyone except Prime Minister Narendra Modi is aware that the Chinese have ‘occupied our land’. He also said that Kashmir is unhappy and sad under the Modi government and he is not happy with what he has seen in Jammu and Kashmir.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi

After the completion of 135-day-long Bharat Jodo Yatra with unfurling of the national flag at the historical Lal Chowk in Srinagar, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday skipped any mention of Article 370 and said he found Jammu and Kashmir sad and unhappy. 

He said, “I met people of Jammu, I met people of Ladakh, I met people of Kashmir. I didn’t see anybody excited and happy. I didn’t see happiness on the ground.”   

Rahul also said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the only person who feels that Chinese have not taken any land from India. 

He said, “I recently met some ex-Army people. Even the delegation from Ladakh clearly said that 2,000 sq km of Indian territory had been taken by the Chinese. They also said many patrolling points that used to be in the Indian territory are now in Chinese hands.”

“I keep repeating that the approach of the government of denying that the Chinese have taken our land is an extremely dangerous approach and is going to give them (Chinese) confidence to do more aggressive things. I think the way to deal with Chinese is to deal with them firmly and to be clear that they are sitting on our land and it is something that we are not going to tolerate.”

Of the Yatra, Rahul said even the party had not expected the kind of support they received. He said the motive was to unite the people against politics and hatred and violence.

He said, “Bharat Jodo Yatra ended in Srinagar. I have met lakhs of people. I have talked to people. I don’t have words to explain to you. The motive of the yatra was to unite people against politics of hatred and violence. We got a good response. We were not expecting such a love filled response. We saw the resilience and strength of the people of India. We raised the issue of inflation and unemployment. We heard voices of different sections including farmers, unemployed and small business, which are in extreme strain.”

Rahul said the Bharat Jodo Yatra should not be construed as Congress party’s yatra but India’s yatra as a number of people other than Congress workers walked with the yatra.

He said, “The Yatra has given an alternative vision. The BJP and RSS have given a vision that is full of hatred and arrogance. Our vision is like nafrat ke bazaar mei muhabat ki dukaan wala. Our vision is of brotherhood, our vision is to give dignity to each other. Clearly India has now before it two alternatives.”

Rahul said the Bharat Jodo Yatra will have a profound impact on Indian politics.

He said, “When I entered Jammu, I met people from Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh, and nobody was happy. That was the first thing I saw. The central issues raised in Jammu and Kashmir are similar to the issues raised in the rest of the country like unemployment, lack of opportunities and corruption.”

Rahul, however, said there are other issues like restoration of statehood and the lack of public representation which are being forcefully raised in Jammu and Kashmir.

Rahul avoided any reference to Article 370 in his press briefing after the conclusion of the Bharat Jodo Yatra and said the working committee of Congress had already taken a view on Article 370. However, he didn’t spell out his view or the party’s view. 

On August 5, 2019, the Narendra Modi government abrogated Article 370 and scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. It also downgraded the state to a Union Territory (UT) and bifurcated it into two UTs of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Rahul also mention his family’s history and said walking to Kashmir felt like making a reverse journey.

He said, “I am not happy with what I see in Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, I felt sadness when I walked through Jammu and Kashmir. When I first entered Jammu, a strange thought came to my mind that my family descended from Jammu and Kashmir and went to Allahabad and, in some strange way, I was making a reverse journey. So I felt in a way I was going home. That was a very powerful feeling I had. I had affection towards people of Jammu and Kashmir and I come here with an open heart and I come here with open arms to help whatever way I can. And I was humbled by the reception we got in Jammu and in Kashmir. 

“I think statehood and restoration of democratic process is an important step in Jammu and Kashmir to begin with. All other states in India have democratic process in place and it should happen in Jammu and Kashmir as well.”

Rahul said the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are attacking the institutional framework of the country. 

“What you see in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the country is an assault on that institutional framework,” said Rahul.