Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday unfurled the national flag at the historic clock tower of Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar as part of the Kanyakumari-Kashmir ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ and said a ”promise” made to India has been fulfilled.
The security for the 10-minute event was at its peak as all roads in a one-kilometre radius leading to the chowk, which holds symbolic importance for the city, were sealed off from Saturday night and no vehicular movement was allowed.
Barricades were set up and concertina wires installed at all entry points with a heavy deployment of security personnel, while shops, business establishments and the weekly flea market were closed as part of the security exercise.
Gandhi, along with his sister and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, party leaders and workers, resumed the final lap of the yatra in Jammu and Kashmir from Srinagar’s Pantha Chowk around 10:45 am.
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Those part of the march walked for about eight kilometres to Sonwar raising slogans such as ”Jodo Jodo Bharat Jodo”, and along the way, were cheered and greeted by locals.
Within a multi-layer security ring, Gandhi, in a white T-shirt which he has sported for most of the over 4,000-kilometre yatra from India’s southern tip, waved at people as yatris, including a large number of women, carrying the tricolour and Congress flags, moved towards Sonwar. After reaching their destination, Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and other senior party leaders drove to the party’s headquarters at M A Road here. Later, they headed to Lal Chowk, where the former Congress president unfurled the national flag.
”By hoisting the tricolour at Lal Chowk, the promise made to India was fulfilled today. Hate will lose, love will always win. There will be a new dawn of hopes in India,” Gandhi tweeted in Hindi after the event.
The yatra, which was launched on September 7 last year in Kanyakumari, has traversed 12 states and two Union Territories. It will culminate with the hoisting of the national flag at the Congress office here on Monday.
Yatris of the foot-march led Gandhi will halt for the night at the Nehru Park here.
On Monday, a public rally will also be held at the SK Stadium for which 23 opposition political parties have been invited by the Congress. Earlier in the day, All India Congress Committee general secretary, in-charge communications, Jairam Ramesh on Twitter said the flag unfurling was planned for Monday but had to be done a day earlier.
”@RahulGandhi was supposed to unfurl national flag on Jan 30th in PCC office, since permission to do so elsewhere wasn’t given. Last evening, state administration allowed him to do so in Lal Chowk, but under condition that it should be done today on 29th at end of #BharatJodoYatra,” Ramesh tweeted.
The ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ has traversed through Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir.
On Friday, the yatra was cancelled for the day in Anantnag district after the party alleged security lapse, saying police arrangements by the Jammu and Kashmir administration ”completely collapsed”.
The administration had said pressure on security resources due to the size of the crowd, larger than planned, may have created an impression of lack of security arrangements during the Rahul Gandhi-led march.
It resumed in Pulwama district’s Awantipora on Saturday and Gandhi was joined PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, her daughter Iltija Mufti and a large number of workers in the march. Priyanka Gandhi also joined her brother in the yatra later.