Kashmir bharat jodo yatra, bharat jodo yatra srinagar
Mamta and Ramila traveled all the way from Rajasthan to meet Rahul Gandhi in Srinagar. Photograph by Umer Asif for The Kashmir Walla.

Srinagar: Walking barefoot on snow with a tri-color on his shoulder, Dinesh Pandit has pledged not to wear any footwear until Congress leader Rahul Gandhi becomes the Prime Minister of India.

Though he had taken the pledge about a decade ago, his commitment was only tested in September last year when he joined the Bharat Jodo Yatra – a rally that the country’s grand old party says is aimed at countering the hate politics of the right-wing – from Kanyakumari, India’s southernmost area.

“I’m keeping my pledge by walking barefooted from Kanyakumari to Kashmir with my leader (Rahul Gandhi),” Pandit said, standing over a thin layer of snow in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk.

The BJY came to a culmination in Srinagar last weekend, with a speech by Gandhi in the final event. Donning a Pheran, the Congress leader said he deliberately wore a white t-shirt to give his enemies a chance to color it red with blood. But, he added, he received endless love.

The message of the BJY was to see an end to the phone calls, giving the message of deaths in the Valley. Gandhi added that he can understand the pain and agony of Kashmiris. 

“What would be the fate of the families including soldiers, CRPF men, and Kashmiris when they get phone calls with messages of deaths or killings of their loved ones?” he questioned, standing amid heavy snowfall. “Who else can understand that other than me? I have received phone calls about my father’s death and even my grandmother’s death.”

That’s what Pandit, a resident of Haryana, adores about Gandhi, he said. “What is happening in our country is not a reflection of what Indians are known for,” Pandit said. “The current dispensation has divided India in the name of religion and caste.”

His journey started from Kanyakumari on 7 September 2022 and traveled 3,970 kilometers through 12 states and two union territories in roughly 145 days. Braving the chill, several participants said that the journey a worth the experience.

Manoj Singh Yadav, a resident of Uttar Pradesh, is with the Yatra since 3 January. Yadav said his participation is an attempt to safeguard the “Indian Constitution”.

“We have to save our country, our constitution. Our economy is shattered. Our history is being eroded. We have to get united to save our institutions,” Yadav said. 

Mamta and Ramila had traveled all the way from Rajasthan to meet Rahul Gandhi in Srinagar. Without shoes, the duo draped their feet in polythene as they headed toward the venue of the closing ceremony of the BJY.

“Our land was grabbed in the Rajasthan. We are here to tell our problems to Rahul Gandhi,” Mamta said, naively.

Meanwhile, a student from the University of Delhi said that nobody could have taught him things that he learned walking with Gandhi’s caravan. “Our country is far better than what it is being turned into,” he said. “Our universities and colleges are being saffaronized. Our farmers are being pushed against a wall. We need to change it.”

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