Yatra is uniting and healing the bruised soul of India.

BHARAT JODO YATRA has caused ripples in India. The mainstream media was under duress to “ignore” the YATRA. It gave additional strength to the YATRIS. The YATRA has already covered a distance of more than 1000 kms and its resolve has not thinned a trifle bit. The limbs and the feet have embraced the pious earth of this great country- they will not wilt. By now it has become clear to the world that it is not a RATH-YATRA. It is uniting and healing the bruised soul of India. It is mingling with the people and sharing their joys and grief. It has transcended the barriers of language, status and parochial identities. It is in sync with the concerns of the people, beneath and beyond the dazzling sparkle of the rhetoric. It has touched the pulse of the people and has felt the tremulous fear of the percolating uncertainties of earning their daily bread. Now that it has had a view of ‘real’ India, there will be no going back to the artificially created sheen and gleaming attire of the podium ridden orator. It has seen the resilience of the people of India in varied forms and its own resolve, the resolve of the YATRA, has grown exponentially- in unfathomable measure. Its intent, the purpose, the strength of the uniting thread of the people of this country- just everything has far surpassed the original estimation. In fact, the YATRA has almost completely transformed the YATRIS- from onlookers, bystanders, observers to coparcenary, confederate collaborator in the joys, afflictions, sufferings, and felicity of the people of India. This is providing a new meaning to this endeavor. By the time YATRA completes its journey, it would gather unprecedented understanding about our own people, experience of a never before kind heard in recent times, and a panoramic view of the actual living conditions prevailing in our country.

Appalled and demoralised by the prevalent political scenario- no, appalled yes but not demoralised. The YATRA does not escape from the wreckage created by the saffron. Nor does it resort to cynicism of historical inevitability of this state of affairs. It has the strongest conviction that saffron cannot deliver the death of democracy. The occasional addresses and the usual conversations during the YATRA have without fail reposed faith in the linchpin principle of democracy. They are not deterred by the current democratic crisis. The YATRIS know that this crisis is rooted in the decades of vacillation between “reasonable right and the reasonable left” (a la Jedediah Purdy). To them it is no surprise that the people of goodwill have been swayed by the rhetoric and the pomp of the loudmouth saffron. The YATRA is, in calculated ways, an exercise to resonate a consensus between liberals- much maligned, name called, and heavily abused by the saffron incessantly- and the centrists. It is earnestly hoped, and not without reason, that issues relating to power and conflict politics will be delegitimised. The “experts”, “economists”, and the vociferous advocates of civilisational essentialism are trying to usurp the right of people to shape our shared lives. The tyranny of the majority and abhorrence of plurality and equality are the constant undertones of the “experts”. The YATRA unsheathes the “dagger” not by combat but through an intense “personal” conversation. This “personal” conversation invites extreme disapprobation, character assassination, loathing and sometimes conjured penal action. But what else and where are the surprises- this is the traditional and most deployed arsenal.

The leader of the YATRA is a young energetic Hindustani. He is possessed by the idea of India where poor get decisive weight, where there are no constraints on choices- of religion, faith, food, life partners, place of residence, work, vocation- India which produces no permanent majorities, where democracy is defined as the rule by equals. This YATRI has been motivated by the conviction that democracy is equal participation of all citizens. It is also the rule of the people. In the current time the forces that undermine political equality have gained momentum. There is today a contest between “democracy” by the few and equal participation of all citizens. “Experts” affirming “faith” with the political dispensation of today, convolute arguments alleging too much of democracy as the reason for country’s ills. Effortfully orchestrated “popular sovereignty” is being used as the smoke screen to clip the wings of Indian democracy. Our YATRI has decided to propel the wind of change and blow off this smoke. He wants to make democracy real and carry this message across the country- to the people. This is a stupendous mission; and he is making a small beginning. Perhaps he is inspired by the handful of “dandi-yatris” that had embarked on the mission to challenge the draconian British Salt Law. Perhaps he is spirited and has Himalayan faith on the serendipity of his mingling mission. Perhaps he is possessed by the Phoenix-like faith. He is desirous of deriving his moral authority from the people of Gandhi’s India. He is drunk on Gandhian fearlessness; and most importantly, he wants to abide by the principle of ABHAYA in not instilling any fear in others.

We know that politics is a difficult contest. But because it is difficult, it is taken up by the brave alone. One has to win the battle of ideas as much as electoral victories. The ideas have different origins. Some “democrats” would cling to the archaic ideas; some others would open their windows and allow the free wind of ideas to blow across. Mahatma Gandhi had throughout been an avowed votary of the evolution of ideas. This has been the core strength of the Congress Party. This YATRA allows the principle of evolution to seat among the people of India. This YATRA is the Phoenix point of the Congress as a party. Many will think that Rahul Gandhi is on a Euclidean mission. Yet, this connect with people and this grassroot understanding of the needs and desires and faith and resolve of the people will rejuvenate the YATRA and its YATRIS-there is not an iota of doubt in my mind. May the strength of the people of this great country collect and kindle the spirit of equality, democracy, jan-swarajya, and brotherhood. 

( The writer is veteran Congress leader and former Union minister Subodh Kant Sahai.
Views expressed in this article are his personal.
Email: [email protected] )