Congress, with a moral leader within, should work to undo the fear-generating atmosphere created in the recent past; after all, RSS-BJP remained outside power till the 1990s and spread their ideology before becoming all-powerful
6:30 AM, 6 November, 2022Updated 6:53 AM, 6 November, 2022
Rahul’s padayatra is totally the opposite of BJP’s Rath Yatra in character and message.
By November 2, Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, by then 55 days old, had covered about 45 per cent of its targeted distance, as it went through Telangana. The yatra started on September 7 from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and is expected to end in Kashmir, covering 3500 km.
It is a marathon walk in which hundreds of people have joined Rahul. Thousands throng the roadsides to meet and greet the Congress leader.The author with Rahul Gandhi on the outskirts of Hyderabad on November 2
I joined him to wish the yatra well on the outskirts of Hyderabad on the evening of November 2. The march was on the way to Sangareddy. It was a spectacle to see. There were thousands of people—women, men, and children—lining either side of the road with enthusiasm to catch a glimpse of Rahul, click photos on their phones and, if possible, meet him. The security was so tight that nobody could reach him unless he himself broke the security cardon and reached out.
Many are comparing this south-to-north padayatra to Adi Shankara’s journey in the 8th century to spread Shaivism, and also casteism, with a determined plan to uproot Buddhism from India. In my 20-minute discussion with him as I walked alongside, I realised that Rahul’s motive was the opposite of Adi Shankara’s.
This padayatra is meant to free present India from fear. Various sections of India, not just minorities like Muslims and Christians, are fear-stricken about what might happen to the Indian democracy, to the Constitution our great founding fathers and mothers put in place, with equal rights for every individual.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which was opposed to this kind of democratic system—and also to the Constitution—in the 1940s and 1950s, is not only ruling but deploying very suspicious methods to rule India. Somebody must emerge as a moral leader to change this political atmosphere and give confidence to the masses, who are fear-stricken.
Message of fearless India
Before Rahul’s long march, two great Indians walked at length on this land to spread the idea of freedom, equality, and fearlessness. The first was Gautam Buddha. He roamed the eastern part of India on foot to spread the idea of samata, non-violence, and human equality. He established egalitarian sanghas without caring for caste inequalities. Dr BR Ambedkar re-invoked the Buddha in our freedom struggle with great legal wisdom and positive will and institutionalised a modern democratic constitutional system.
The second was Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom struggle. He walked 350 km to initiate a salt satyagraha. He combined this long walk with spreading his ideology of non-violence and self-rule.
Rahul has undertaken this long march with a positive message of fearless India after 75 years of India’s freedom from the British. The ruling RSS-BJP nationalism is built on the ideology of communal violence. LK Advani, the real builder of the present BJP, also undertook a Rath Yatra from Somnath temple to Ayodhya Babri Masjid in 1990 to oppose the Mandal reservation movement. En route, a lot of violence was deployed.
Rahul’s padayatra is totally the opposite of that Rath Yatra in character and message.
History’s winners and losers
On several occasions in human history, violent forces had decisive victories. But finally, human society survived and developed with the spread of non-violence, peace, and the philosophy of love and human equality.
Even Jesus Christ undertook a lot of foot travel from one end of Israel to the other, from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee to Jerusalem, spreading the idea of peace and non-violence. He was brutally crucified. But that did not make him a loser in history. He became a winner, and murderers became losers in the long run. The ideology of hatred and bigotry cannot make positive history.
History did not care whether the agents of peace and human equality came from a dynasty of rulers or from among the poor and destitute. In human history, brutal killers came from royal families and so did great humanists. History has also shown us brutal dictators who came from very ordinary middle-class families without any record of political rule and destroyed nations. Hitler and Mussolini did not come from ruling dynasties. They came from very ordinary middle-class families, in Germany and Italy, respectively. We know what they did to their countries and the world.
In our own country, the Buddha came from a ruling family and became a great agent of peace, non-violence, and equality. King Ashoka came from a ruling dynasty and lived a very violent life until he became a Buddhist. But afterwards, he became a great Buddhist agent of peace, non-violence, and positive welfare state.
Mahatma Gandhi came from a Kathiawar ruling Bania family and became an agent of non-violence. Ambedkar came from the most “untouchable” family background, owned the Buddhist-Ashokan vision, and became the father of the Indian Constitution. Now, Indians in a big way own the Buddha-Ashoka-Ambedkar heritage in many spheres of life.
No hunger for power
Rahul has so far not shown any hunger for power. He could have become the Prime Minister in 2009 had he been hell bent on the position. He did not even opt for a Cabinet berth at that time. He could have continued as the party president after the 2019 elections. Or, he could have become that anytime later. He did not.
Yet, he was attacked, humiliated, and called names such as Pappu, Baba, Prince, and so on. His most docile mother, who never held a government office, was attacked in abusive language many times. Recently, both were interrogated by the Enforcement Directorate for several days.
All this did not go down well with millions of Indian masses. The people’s sympathy for Rahul comes from several such sources.
In this background, Rahul’s longest padayatra in modern Indian history gives a feeling of hope to millions of Indians and also foreigners, who respect human equality, human rights, and constitutionalism.
South Indian states are under attack by the present RSS/BJP regime, with the threat to impose Hindi and eliminate English from school and college education. There is a subtle opposition to South Indian advancement by the present Delhi regime, as it is North-centred.
Rahul’s position on English and Hindi is opposed to their position. He went to English-medium schools and colleges in India and abroad. He understands the avenues that are open to the future youth with English education, without giving up the home language learning.
There is no doubt that Rahul is the only Indian who has visibility within the country and outside with respect for human rights. This padayatra may reshape his role in the Indian socio-political system.
What Congress wants
He is a Congress leader. The Congress forces expect him to bring them to power in Delhi, and also in the states through which he is walking.
However, Bharat Jodo Yatra should not be seen from the point of view of immediate votes and power. The RSS/BJP remained outside power till the 1990s and spread their ideology. Now, they are in power, controlling every national institution.
The Congress, with a moral leader within, should work for a long time to undo the hate and fear-generating atmosphere created in the recent past.
Rahul and his team must learn and unlearn things by speaking to the productive and labouring masses in the different states. But ultimately, it is the people who make new history by changing the old one.
Bharat Joto Yatra is historic in many ways. It should achieve the objective of eliminating hatred, bigotry, and fear in civil society. It should embolden people to protect Indian democracy and the Constitution.
(Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist, and author)
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