Congress workers on Thursday celebrated the first anniversary of the Bharat Jodo Yatra by organising marches across the country, with the party asking what kind of forces would have a problem with a united India.
“Who was having a problem, who wanted to derail the Yatra? What kind of forces can have a problem with a united India?” Congress media department chairperson Pawan Khera said at a news conference.
“Every citizen of the country knows who these forces are. They are now creating an artificial division between India and Bharat.”
While the BJP had tried to defame and derail the Yatra after it started from Kanyakumari on September 7 last year, some of its leaders began advocating the use of “Bharat” rather than “India” to refer to the country since the Opposition combine recently named itself “INDIA”.
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has argued that “Bharat” is preferable because “India” symbolises the colonial legacy, and BJP Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh Harnath Singh Yadav has gone so far as to describe “India” as a term of abuse.
He said: “Not only me, the entire country wants the word ‘India’ discarded.... The word ‘India’ is an abuse for us.”
Some Union ministers have denied there is any plan to formally drop “India” as the country’s name.
The Congress has criticised the attempts to build a negative perception around the name “India” and stressed there should be no controversy as both “India” and “Bharat” are mentioned in the Constitution and can be used interchangeably. The Congress and other Opposition parties argue that the entire controversy was invented after their alliance adopted the name “INDIA”.
Khera said: “There are forces in the country who feel threatened by the unification project. They don’t want India united. Every generation, Mahatma Gandhi onwards, has taught these forces a lesson in their own way. We too will teach them a lesson. Our slogan today is: Judega Bharat, Jeetega India.”
The Congress has said the Bharat Jodo Yatra will continue as long as divisive forces remain in the country. The party believes the Yatra not only brought the Opposition back into the electoral fray but emboldened people across the country to stand up to the divisive narrative. It argues that the perception about the RSS-BJP being invincible — and the despondency this spawned among many — evaporated after the Kanyakumari-to-Kashmir march.
Party president Mallikarjun Kharge said: “The Bharat Jodo Yatra is a people’s movement, unequalled in history. The trend of manufacturing irrelevant headlines to divert attention from the real issues of people to hide the agenda of hate and division is a systemic attack on our collective conscience. The Yatra seeks to bring real issues of economic inequalities, price rise, unemployment, social injustices, subversion of the Constitution, centralisation of power, to the centre-stage of people’s imagination.”
He added: “The Yatra continues to fight the menace of hate and hostility in our society through a conversation.”
Party communications chief Jairam Ramesh said: “The Bharat Jodo Yatra was a hugely transformative event in Indian politics and focused on the themes of rising economic inequalities, increasing social polarisation and deepening political authoritarianism.
“It was not a Mann Ki Baat lecturing exercise for Rahul Gandhi but an opportunity to listen to janta ki chinta (People’s views). The Yatra continues in different forms as evidenced by Rahul Gandhi’s meetings with students, truck drivers, farmers and farm workers, mechanics, vegetable traders, MSMEs across the country, and his presence in Manipur along with his extended weeklong visit to Ladakh.”