Indian opposition’s ‘unity march’ ends in disputed Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — India’s most important opposition Congress get together ended a five-month cross-country “unity march” in disputed Kashmir on Monday with lots of of members of assorted opposition teams becoming a member of in a public rally in freezing temperatures.

The march led by Rahul Gandhi, an opposition chief and scion of the influential Gandhi household, sought to problem what the Congress get together says is a “hate-filled” model of the nation underneath the federal government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist get together.

Members of various opposition events, together with Kashmiri regional teams that oppose Modi’s insurance policies however are pro-India, joined Gandhi’s rally in Srinagar in snow and bitter chilly.

A whole lot of police and paramilitary troopers blanketed Srinagar’s Lalchowk space and restricted public motion, permitting solely folks with passes issued by the Congress get together to enter the venue.

Wearing a conventional Kashmiri tunic worn through the winter, Gandhi, 52, and different leaders stood on an open podium inside a cricket stadium.

The march was to “elevate a voice in opposition to the hate” and “open retailers of affection within the bazaar of hate,” he mentioned.

Gandhi accused Modi, the house minster and the nationwide safety adviser of stoking violence and mentioned he needs to indicate that India is a “nation of affection.”

Gandhi started the “Bharat Jodo Yatra” or “Unite India March” in Kanyakumari, a coastal city on the southernmost tip of India, on Sept. 7. The march, which was live-streamed on an internet site, coated 3,570 kilometers (2,218 miles) and crossed 12 states earlier than ending in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Passing via lots of of villages and cities, the march attracted farmers nervous about rising debt, college students complaining about growing unemployment and activists who say the health of India’s democracy is in decline. Alongside the best way, Gandhi deserted his previously clean-shaven search for a thick beard and slept in cabins product of delivery containers through the night time.

Hindu nationalism has surged underneath Modi and his get together, which have been criticized over rising hate speech and violence against Muslims. Opponents say Modi’s lack of criticism of the violence emboldens right-wing teams and threatens nationwide unity, however his get together has denied this.

Modi’s get together dismissed Gandhi’s march and speeches as a political gimmick to regain his “misplaced credibility.”

In impassioned speeches through the march, Gandhi accused Modi and his authorities of doing little to handle rising financial inequality, rising non secular polarization and the menace posed by China.

Indian and Chinese language troops have been locked in a bitter standoff in the mountainous Ladakh region since 2020. Opposition events and a few consultants say the Chinese language military has occupied some Indian positions in Ladakh’s chilly desert.

In Srinagar, Gandhi advised reporters that Modi “is nearly frankly the one individual within the nation who’s underneath the impression that the Chinese language haven’t taken any land from India.”

Gandhi additionally accused Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Occasion of “attacking the institutional framework of this nation.”

“Whether or not it’s Parliament, whether or not it’s assemblies, whether or not it’s the judiciary, whether or not it’s the media, all establishments are being attacked and captured by the BJP,” he mentioned.

He set a conciliatory tone in Kashmir, the place New Delhi in 2019 ended the area’s semi-autonomy and took direct management of it amid a widespread crackdown and communication blackout.

“I believe statehood and restoration of the democratic course of in Jammu and Kashmir is key and crucial and I believe that will be a primary step,” Gandhi mentioned on Sunday. “I’m not pleased with what I see in Jammu and Kashmir. In truth, I’m saddened.”

Kashmir is claimed by each India and Pakistan, which every management a part of the area.

Gandhi known as the march a “imaginative and prescient” and mentioned it was “not only a stroll” however “an concept of how India ought to transfer ahead.”

With a nationwide election about 15 months away, the march may assist decide whether or not the beleaguered opposition can put up a battle in opposition to the electoral juggernaut of Modi’s get together, which gained majorities in 2014 and 2019.

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