Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday said the collapse of the security arrangement for his Bharat Jodo Yatra forced him to cancel the yatra after crossing into Kashmir at Qazigund in south Kashmir.
“This morning a large crowd had gathered for the reception after the tunnel,’’ he said at a press conference. “We were looking forward to walking on the but the police arrangement completely collapsed”. He said the police personnel who were supposed to manage the crowd and hold the rope were nowhere to be seen.
“My security was very uncomfortable with me walking further on the yatra,” he said. “So I had to cancel my walk, but the others continued.”
He said it is very difficult for him to go against what his security recommends. “So that is what I wanted to say,’’ a visibly upset Gandhi said.
Senior J&K Congress leader and former JKPCC chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir called the security lapse ‘could be deliberate and sabotage’. “We held several advance meetings with the security officials about the security of the yatra. I also attended one. There should have been no confusion,’’ he said. He said people from Devsar, Kaprn and other areas come at 5.30 am to join the yatra and see Gandhi.
He said the security officials told them Kashmir is different from the rest of the country, so we thought the arrangement would be better than the rest of the country.
“But their arrangements were disappointing,’’ he said. “We had decided that podium will be put up next to Goodwill where Gandhi and others will stand for five minutes and don pherans, but in the morning we were asked to set up the podium on the road.”
He said the Bharat Jodo Yatra's message is more important for Kashmir than the rest of the country. I want to tell the government that such incidents shouldn’t be repeated. What happened was disastrous,” he said.
He said they lost Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, but they will have to save their leader. Mir further appealed to the government to make amends in the next four days.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said Gandhi was supposed to walk for 16 km today but due to the security lapse, he walked only four km. “But the 200 yatris continued their yatra,’’ he said.
On January 29, Gandhi will address a press conference and on January 30 they will unfurl the tricolour at Congress headquarters in Srinagar. “Then there will be a gathering of like-minded political parties for 90 minutes and that will be the last event of the yatra,’’ he said.
He said on January 26, Congress also started a mission to apprise the people about the dangers to the country due to the BJP. “Our workers will distribute a one-page charge-sheet against the government. It will continue till April 26,’’ he said. JKPCC chief Vikar Rasool said the yatra will resume on Saturday from Awantipora and stop at Birla International School for a tea break.
“Mostly women will participate in the yatra,’’ he said. PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti will join the yatra. Priyanka Gandhi is also expected to join the yatra,’’ he said. The night halt will be at Pantha Chowk Truck Yard. The next day, the yatra will resume from there to Nehru Park at Dal lake in Srinagar. “Rahul will address a press conference there,’’ he said.
Earlier, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference leader Omar Abdullah joined the yatra from Banihal in Ramban district as the march neared Kashmir.
Abdullah joined Gandhi at the railway station and walked for about two km to the Truck Yard. The duo was joined by other senior leaders from the National Conference, including NC provincial president Nasir Aslam Wani and former NC minister Sakeena.