Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday called for unitedly standing against the ideology of the BJP and the RSS which he alleged was trying to destroy the foundation of the country, while also asserting he undertook the Bharat Jodo Yatra not for himself or the Congress but for people.
Addressing a rally here to mark the culmination of the nearly five-month-long Bharat Jodo Yatra, Gandhi said his family taught him to live fearlessly and that is why he undertook a 'padyatra' in the Kashmir Valley despite security people advising against it.
Gandhi said the people of J&K did not throw "hand grenades" on him but showered love.
He also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the RSS of "instigating violence" and said they would not understand the pain of losing a loved one as the people of Kashmir would or the families of armed forces, or as he himself did.
He claimed the BJP top brass would never undertake a walkathon like the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir as they are scared, and asserted he continued his march in the Valley despite being advised against it as he is not afraid.
"I can guarantee you that no BJP leader can walk like this in Jammu and Kashmir. They will not do it, not because they won't be allowed by the people of J-K, but because they are scared," Gandhi said.
Speaking amidst heavy snowfall, Gandhi, who wore a 'pheran' -- a Kashmiri cloak -- said he was advised against walking the four-day Kashmir lap of the yatra on the grounds that he might be attacked.
"When I was walking, the security people told me I can walk anywhere in India, even in Jammu, but the last four days in Kashmir, 'you should drive in a car'. A few days before I reached Kashmir, the administration told me, perhaps to scare me, that if I walk, then a grenade can be lobbed upon me," he said.
"I thought over it and then decided that I am walking to my home and with my people (in J-K). I thought, why not give those who hate me a chance to change the colour of my white shirt, let them make it red," Gandhi said.
He said he was not afraid and he learnt from his family and Mahatma Gandhi to live life sans fear.
"What happened was what I had thought. The people of Jammu and Kashmir did not throw hand grenades, they opened their hearts and gave me love, embraced me…Children and elderly welcomed me with their love and tears," he said.
Recalling the moments when he was informed over the phone about the assassinations of his grandmother and father -- former prime ministers Indira Gandhi (1984) and Rajiv Gandhi (1991) -- the Congress MP said the inciters to violence will never understand that pain.
"I understand violence, I have endured it. Those who incite violence -- like Modiji, Amit Shahji, Ajit Doval ji, and the RSS -- will never understand this pain as they have never endured it. The family of an Army man will understand, the family of the CRPF personnel who were killed in Pulwama will understand. I know what goes through the hearts of their children.
"The Kashmiris will understand that pain when one gets that phone call. I understand that, my sister understands that," he said, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra by his side
"The aim of the yatra is to end the phone calls announcing the deaths of loved ones -- be it the families of soldiers, CRPF jawans killed in Pulwama or any Kashmiri," he added.
The Gandhi family scion said 'Kashmiriyat' was his home. "When I was walking to Kashmir, I thought, this is the same route through which, years ago, my relatives came from Kashmir to Allahabad. I felt that I was returning to my home. Since I was a child, I have lived in government accommodations, I do not have a house.
"I have never accepted these structures as my home. Wherever I live, it is a building, not a home. For me, a home is a thinking, it is a way of life," he said. "What you call Kashmiriyat, I call that thinking my home. What is Kashmiriyat? It is Shiv ji's thinking. Its deep meaning is 'Shoonyata' (selflessness). It means attacking yourself, your ego, your thinking. In Islam, it means 'Fanaa' (destruction of the self) This is Kashmiriyat. This thinking prevails in other states as well. Gandhiji talked about Vaishno Janto.. 'Shoonyata' is known as Vaishno Janto' in Gujrat," he added. Gandhi said the same message was spread in Assam, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra as well.
"In J-K, we call it Kashmiriyat. It means uniting each other, not attacking others, but self. My family home in Allahabad is near the bank of River Ganga. When my family went there from Kashmir, they spread the thinking of Kashmiriyat in Uttar Pradesh. It is known as the Ganga-Jamuna Tehzeeb," he said.
Gandhi alleged that the BJP and the RSS were trying to destroy the liberal ethos and the ideologies of brotherhood that are the foundation of the country.
"I have not done this (Yatra) for myself or for the Congress but for the people of the country. It is our endeavour that we stand against the ideology that wants to destroy the foundation of this country, stand together, not with hatred but with love," he said.
"The BJP has shown us a way of life, a political way, we must try to show the country another way, which is the way of India, the way of love, we must remind the country that India is a country of love, respect, of brotherhood…we have taken a small step, not a big step, we have tried to open a 'shop of love in the market of hate',” Gandhi said.
Gandhi also talked about why he walked in T-shirt.
His 'no sweater' attire has been much talked about during the yatra and also attracted barbs from the BJP.
"Four children came to me. They were beggars and had few clothes on ... I went down on my knees ...They were cold and shivering. I thought that if they are not wearing jackets or sweaters, I too shouldn't wear the same," Gandhi said.
The yatra culminated on Monday with an event at the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) headquarters in the Lal Chowk area here and the rally at the stadium. The yatra traversed 12 states and two Union territories about five months after its launch on September 7 last year, clocking over 4,000 km.