It’s more than a walk: The Tribune India
In this dark moment when toxic and instrumental politics are the order of the day, and the heavy baggage of information pollution turns everything into its opposite, it is not easy to make sense of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. It can be condemned and ridiculed by the ruling regime and its propaganda machinery, and reduced to a kind of gossip: say, the price of the T-shirt Rahul Gandhi wore during the yatra, or the “five-star” facilities available in the container where he sleeps and rests. And people like Smriti Irani and Sambit Patra would not hesitate to make all kinds of false and provocative statements to devalue this Kanyakumari trip to Kashmir. Furthermore, there are cynics and political commentators who would assess it through a purely utilitarian scale – whether the yatra would help Congress with electoral gains, especially when the “larger than life” image of Modi or Amit Shah’s election victory the machinery seems irresistible.
Even if the yatra does not lead to any electoral gains, it could prove to be a catalyst, as it pushes us to be free from fear.
Yet, amid all this noise, it is important to understand the meaning of the 3,570 km yatra – its symbolism and its possibilities. To begin, let’s think about the aesthetics and philosophy of walking. Throughout human history, travelers, pilgrims, saints, mystics and ordinary people have walked. And as our own political history suggests, Mahatma Gandhi marched, marched, and marched. Compare this form of walking to the way the rich and powerful travel: politicians, industrialists and celebrities avoiding “polluted” contact with the likes of you and me through their charter planes; or, the official cars/vehicles of MPs, MPs and ministers running fast with the visible and loud demonstration of naked power, and the cops blocking traffic and impeding the movement of ordinary people. However, mindful walking, instead of being an alienating experience, can be therapeutic – politically, culturally and spiritually. It opens our eyes, broadens our horizons and allows us to understand the ethnography of everyday life. Imagine you are crossing Marine Drive in Mumbai. Of course, you look at the tides of the Arabian Sea; you see the splendor of the Malabar hills and the skyscrapers. But then you see something more; you see a man from Gorakhpur selling bhelpuri and persuading you to taste it. You see a trans person cheering, smiling and walking with you. You see students moving around, laughing, crying, relating and cracking jokes. You see beggars, wanderers and people with lost dreams. In other words, you see hopes and dreams, struggles and sufferings, mind-boggling wealth and a daily struggle for mere survival. Walking connects, grounds you, and removes the seeds of narcissism. It’s sad that most of our politicians and bureaucrats don’t work. As fearful and alienated beings, they cherish only one type of power – the power that separates and intensifies distance. They remain ignorant of the power of empathy – the power that unites.
And this sort of meditative walk, whether physical or metaphorical, leads to an ongoing process of self-discovery, or the discovery of a culture or civilization. Without the journey that Mahatma Gandhi undertook after his return from South Africa, it would not have been possible for him to understand the pain of a defeated/colonized nation and then reawaken his moral and political imagination for the struggle for Swaraj. In a different way, through his intellectual journey, Jawaharlal Nehru “discovered” India: the stories of an ancient civilization that has come to terms with the new age. In fact, the implied possibility of a yatra has fascinated many, from Vinoba Bhave to Baba Amte.
Think of the times in which we live. There is no brotherhood because we have not yet been able to fight the caste hierarchy and patriarchal violence. Moreover, the type of hyper-nationalism that the ruling party has sought to normalize, far from uniting us, has erected walls of separation, ghettoized our consciousness and led to the psychic/cultural division of the country through the act of alter the Muslims. and other minority communities. Likewise, the gospel of neoliberalism has further marginalized the poor, the peasantry and the working class. While the tales of seductive consumerism and the “success stories” of some billionaires/cricket stars and Bollywood stars fascinate the new middle class and create spectacular malls/multiplexes/gated communities, the majority of our people live in slums overcrowded, non-hygienic colonies of the petty bourgeoisie, and in the streets and stations. In a way, India is indeed hurt and divided.
Therefore, I have no hesitation in saying that the Bharat Jodo Yatra seems like a refreshing start. As Rahul Gandhi and all who participate in this yatra walk, pass through villages and towns, meet ordinary people and listen to their stories, I feel this is a start. This may allow him to see himself beyond the privilege of being born into the Nehru-Gandhi family, to overcome the stigma of being seen as a ‘part-time’ activist and, hopefully, to realize the power of empathy, compassion and the art of listening. And all those – civil society activists, public intellectuals and ordinary people – who walk with him, I like to believe, will give us what we lack today – the strength to regain our agency, to articulate our voice and try in our own way to unite and heal this terribly divided country.
Even if the yatra does not lead to any electoral gains, it could prove to be a catalyst. After all, it pushes us to be free from fear.